The Tough Moments Mayors Face
Some of the nation's largest cities hold mayoral elections in 2013, including New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Detroit. NPR's Political Junkie Ken Rudin, Governing magazine staff writer Ryan Holeywell and former Sacramento mayor Anne Rudin discuss what makes a good municipal leader.
NEAL CONAN, HOST:
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington. The mayor of New York plays kingmaker in Chicago. The Senate ends the filibuster that wasn't, and the first lady opens the envelope. It's Wednesday and time for a...
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MICHELLE OBAMA: Argo...
CONAN: Edition of the Political Junkie.
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PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.
VICE PRESIDENT WALTER MONDALE: When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad: Where's the beef?
SENATOR BARRY GOLDWATER: Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.
SENATOR LLOYD BENTSEN: Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.
PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON: You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore.
SARAH PALIN: Lipstick.
GOVERNOR RICK PERRY: Oops.
PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: But I'm the decider.
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CONAN: Every Wednesday, Political Junkie Ken Rudin joins us to review the week in politics. Michael Bloomberg's superPAC lifts Robin Kelly to the cusp of Congress in Illinois. A bruised Chuck Hagel takes the oath at the Pentagon. The president and congressional leaders won't talk till after the sequester clock strikes zero. And the Conservative Political Action Conference shuns Chris Christie.
Later in the program, with mayoral races coming up in L.A., New York and Boston this year, we want to hear from mayors about their worst moment in office. We'll also talk about the changing politics of health care with NPR's Julie Rovner. But first, Political Junkie Ken Rudin joins us, as usual, here in Studio 3A. And as usual, we begin with a trivia question. Hey, Ken.
KEN RUDIN, BYLINE: Hi, Neal. Best supporting trivia question right here. OK, a good day, as you say, for Chuck Hagel yesterday. He was - the non-filibuster filibuster was broken. He was confirmed as secretary of defense, which leads to this Cabinet trivia question.
CONAN: Ooh, a Cabinet trivia question.
RUDIN: A Cabinet, yes, where it belongs. Who was the last person whose nomination to the Cabinet was defeated in committee, but yet went on to win confirmation by the full Senate?
CONAN: If you think you know the answer to this week's trivia question, the last person whose nomination to be a Cabinet member was defeated in committee, but then won confirmation in the full Senate, give us a call: 800-989-8255. Email us: email@example.com. And as usual, when we can, we begin with actual votes, Ken.
Well, there was an actual vote in the Senate yesterday.
And there was - it was not as good as perhaps President Obama would've liked, but his choice for secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, was confirmed. The vote was 58 to 41. And, of course, the filibuster and the delays by the Republicans - all 41 votes, of course, were all Republicans who voted no. But it was the most - it was the narrowest margin for a confirmation vote for any secretary of defense in the department's history. And the question is whether Chuck Hagel goes into the new Cabinet as a wounded official.
CONAN: We'll have to see how that plays out. In the meantime, there were some actual voters, the electorate...
RUDIN: Oh, those people.
CONAN: ...went to the polls in Illinois yesterday.
RUDIN: Well, yes. And, of course, the big story there is the Democratic primary. This is the district that Jesse Jackson, Jr. gave up shortly after winning re-election last November. And it was a big day for the foes of the NRA and the foes of gun rights organizations. Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City...
CONAN: And a billionaire.
RUDIN: And a billionaire, his PAC, his pro-gun-control PAC spent about $2.2 million on that election, one, to defeat Debbie Halvorson - former member of Congress who has an A-plus rating from the NRA.
CONAN: And if you remember campaign ads, this is what that one sounded like.
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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: In the race to replace Jesse Jackson, watch out for Debbie Halvorson. When she was in Congress before, Halvorson got an A from the NRA - the NRA.
CONAN: The NRA, used a club in that particular race.
RUDIN: And the beneficiary of all this was Robin Kelly, who's African-American, former state representative. She won overwhelmingly in the Democratic primary with, like, 52 percent. As it turned out, Halvorson finished second with 25 percent, which was less than she got when she ran against Jesse Jackson, Jr. in last year's Democratic primary, and she only got 29 percent there.
But anyway, so Robin Kelly, there is something called the general election.
CONAN: However, the Democratic nomination is...
RUDIN: Uh-oh, here it comes...
CONAN: ...tantamount to election.
RUDIN: I know you love that word. Yes, so anyway, but the official thing is April 9th, but Robin Kelly will be the next member of Congress from Illinois' Second Congressional District.
CONAN: Was there any - the idea of the mayor of New York carpet-bagging in Chicago politics?
RUDIN: Well, you know something? I mean, that was Halvorson's argument, saying that, you know, these carpetbaggers are coming in, and these New Yorkers are telling us how to vote. But, of course, with gun violence so terrible, so horrific in Chicago, with, you know, hundreds already, you know, shooting deaths in the last couple of months, Halvorson's argument did not hold water.
CONAN: And she was unable to raise a lot of money to compete on the air against Bloomberg in the short period of time since Jackson's resignation.
RUDIN: Exactly. Robin Kelly didn't have that much money. But she did have that independent PAC that focused their ire on Halvorson.
CONAN: Let's see: There is a vote coming up in the House of Representatives. It looks like the Violence Against Women Act is finally going to pass the Republican-controlled House.
RUDIN: Yeah. I mean, the Republicans will put up an amendment that, I think, it tries to save some money on, but basically, they will, for the most part - it's expected that the House will pass the bill that's already been passed by the Senate, and it will be signed into law.
CONAN: Interesting. And there is a lot of news this week about the sequester, including the interesting fact that the first, you know, recent meeting - I guess the first meeting of the year between the president and the leading members of Congress - is going to be after the sequester clock ticks down to zero on Friday.
RUDIN: That's pretty remarkable, yes, because the sequester begins officially midnight on Thursday, after - you know, Thursday going into Friday. And it won't be until Friday, where President Obama sits down at the White House with Speaker Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.
And, of course, this is already leading to a lot of finger-pointing this week alone, the fact that they haven't met yet, why are they meeting after this sequester takes place? And two, the president is going around the country saying that - how bad the sequester is, and the Republicans saying this is really all of - it's a campaign event for the president because it's really, the cuts and the damage is not going to be as bad as the president insists it will be.
CONAN: And interesting, among his harshest critics, the journalist Bob Woodward, who's saying that the president is saying look, I'm not going to be able, because of the sequester, to send aircraft carriers to the Gulf. He said this is madness.
RUDIN: Yeah. It's very interesting how the Republicans are passing around Bob Woodward's column in the Washington Post, and the Democrats are saying, oh, no. Woodward has it all wrong. In the past, it's usually been the opposite.
CONAN: We have some people on the line who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question, and that is the last member of a president's Cabinet whose nomination was defeated in committee, but then he won confirmation on the floor.
RUDIN: He or she.
CONAN: He or she - of the United States Senate. 800-989-8255. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll start with - this is Jim, and Jim with us from Port Edwards in Wisconsin.
JIM: John Ashcroft.
RUDIN: John Ashcroft is a very good guess. Of course, he was President Bush's attorney general in 2001. That was a 50-50 Senate then. And there were nine Democrats and nine Republicans on the Judiciary Committee. But because Russ Feingold, the Democrat, voted in favor of John Ashcroft, the Judiciary Committee supported it 10 to eight. So he did pass the committee. But that's a great guess.
CONAN: That's impressive. Yeah. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Matt, and Matt's with us from Grafton, Massachusetts.
MATT: Wild guess here, guys, but Bernard Kerik, Bush's nomination?
CONAN: Down in flames. I'm not sure he ever got to - he was going to be nominated, I think, for Homeland Security, but I don't think his nomination ever got to the Senate.
RUDIN: That's correct. It never got that far.
CONAN: Thanks very much. Let's go to - this is Claudia, Claudia with us from Denver.
CLAUDIA: Hi. I'm sure this is wrong: John Bolton?
RUDIN: John Bolton, who was President Bush's nominee for U.N. ambassador, actually was prevented from getting a vote. It was blocked by the Democrats. So he never got a full vote in the Senate. As it turned out, President Bush gave him a recess appointment, but there was no full vote.
CLAUDIA: OK, thanks.
CONAN: Thanks very much. And let's see if we can go to - this is Patty, Patty with us from Wilmington, North Carolina.
PATTY: Hey. My guess is Alberto Gonzales.
CONAN: Another attorney general.
RUDIN: Alberto Gonzales was a controversial pick. He was President Bush's choice for attorney general, who was confirmed, but he did pass the committee, as well as confirmation in the full Senate.
CONAN: Well, we're getting a lot of - how about a hint?
RUDIN: How about a hint? OK, it's been a long time ago - not a very long time ago, but before Neal Conan's lifetime. Oh, wait. That is a long time.
CONAN: That is a long time ago. But any case, think further back in history. Again, 800-989-8255.
RUDIN: But in the 20th century.
CONAN: Email: email@example.com. In the meantime, interesting the - next month, which starts on Friday, the Conservative Political Action Conference, this is - if you're planning to run for president, it's pretty much de rigueur to address the CPAC.
RUDIN: If you're a Republican.
CONAN: If you're a Republican, if you're conservative. And, for example, I think Sarah Palin is going to be addressing this year's CPAC. But among those who is not is the governor of New Jersey.
RUDIN: Chris Christie, who happens - perhaps is - is perhaps the most popular Republican in the country, certainly the most popular Republican governor in the country, polls show him with an approval rating of 74 percent. But the conservative - the CPAC people say that he is not conservative enough, that he supports the expanding of Medicare, Medicaid - which we'll talk about later in the show - that he supports gun control, and he basically embraced President Obama's $60 billion aid for Hurricane Sandy...
CONAN: Three weeks before Election Day.
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GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: And the cooperation from the president of the United States has been outstanding. He deserves great credit.
RUDIN: And the fact that he had the temerity to embrace a Democratic president running for re-election is probably the real reason why he's not invited to CPAC, which is kind of ironic because he's such a popular guy at home. And why not have somebody like that? I mean, they're having Allen West come. They're having Sarah Palin come. They haven't had - they didn't have great years in 2012. Chris Christie's riding high (unintelligible).
CONAN: Let's see if we can get some more people on the line who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question. Scott is with us from Southbury, Connecticut.
SCOTT: Hi, there.
SCOTT: James Watt, secretary of the interior?
RUDIN: James Watt is a good example, good guess, but he did pass - he was approved by his committee, and full confirmation by the Senate.
SCOTT: Thank you very much.
CONAN: All right. Let's see if we can go to - this is Peter, Peter with us from Allentown, in Pennsylvania of course. Peter, are you there?
CONAN: What's your guess?
PETER: Frances Perkins.
CONAN: Frances Perkins?
RUDIN: Well, she was the first female member of the Cabinet in FDR, around - actually we're...
CONAN: A good political era here.
RUDIN: Yes, but Frances Perkins was not defeated in the committee.
CONAN: Thanks very much.
RUDIN: I think she was labor - secretary of labor, I believe.
CONAN: I think you're absolutely right about that.
RUDIN: You think I'm absolutely right, or I'm...
CONAN: I think you are absolutely right, because, you know, every once in a while, you're absolutely wrong. We'll see if we can get one more caller in, but in the meantime, there is - there's actual movement, just in about 30 seconds or so, in the House on two of the big items on the president's agenda: assault weapons and Bob Goodlatte, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, a little give on immigration.
RUDIN: Yeah. Although he's not too happy of the fact that in preparation for the sequester, the government is releasing some people in detention centers because it would save some money. And he's not happy about that. But as far as the other issue, which was...
CONAN: Which was the assault weapons ban.
RUDIN: Assault weapons, yes, Dianne Feinstein, who's been pushing for an assault weapons ban, she's going to have a hearing starting today in the Judiciary Committee.
CONAN: All right. I guess we're going to have to go this week without a...
RUDIN: We could get an email answer.
CONAN: We could be getting an email answer, which I think is printing out now. And we'll have the winner, the name of the winner, after we come back from a short break.
RUDIN: We have to stay?
CONAN: We have to stay. You have to stay. Ken Rudin is with us. It's Political Junkie day here on TALK OF THE NATION. Up next, dozens of cities from L.A. to Chattanooga to Boston elect a new mayor this year. What makes a good mayor? We'll discuss that after we come back from a short break, and a winner for this week's trivia question. This is NPR News.
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CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan here in Washington. It's Wednesday, political junkie day. Ken Rudin is with us. And here's the email answer, this from Bob Sidenstein(ph) in Lawrenceville, New Jersey: Henry Wallace.
RUDIN: Henry Wallace is the correct answer.
CONAN: Ding, ding, ding.
RUDIN: I'm glad I hung around. He was President Roosevelt's choice for secretary of commerce. He was defeated for the nomination in committee, but he got a full Senate vote confirmation. Matter of fact, 10 Republicans voted for him.
CONAN: How did the nomination get to the floor if it was defeated in committee?
RUDIN: I don't remember.
CONAN: You weren't covering that one?
RUDIN: No, I was...
CONAN: You were out sick that day, yeah.
RUDIN: No, no, (unintelligible). But it's fascinating, and Henry Wallace of course, it was the second time he was secretary of commerce, and President Roosevelt died about a month later after the confirmation.
CONAN: In the meantime, Ken, was there a ScuttleButton winner this week?
RUDIN: There absolutely was, and there were three buttons, which is pretty easy. It was - the first was kind of like a button puzzle in itself.
CONAN: Unlike this week's trivia question.
RUDIN: It said for president Will with an attachment of a key for Willkie. So there was a Willkie button; there was a Pope John Paul II button, I forgot what he was running for; and there was also a button, an anti-war button that said bring me back alive. So if you have the Willkie button, you have Pope John Paul II, and you have bring me back alive, you have keep hope alive.
CONAN: Ooh - Jesse Jackson Sr.
RUDIN: Yes, Jesse Jackson Sr. And Debbie Myers(ph) of Columbus, Ohio, is the winner.
CONAN: And of course gets a fabulous political junkie T-shirt free and the unbelievably fantastic political junkie no-prize button.
RUDIN: Which she has to pay for.
CONAN: Which she has to pay for but with a picture of herself wearing that that can be posted on our Wall of Shame. And by the way, the Wall of Shame has been updated if you've been waiting to see your picture there. You can find the latest puzzle and Ken's political junkie column at npr.org. Go to npr.org, click on TALK OF THE NATION to find the link to the Wall of Shame.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The strike was set even before the expiration of the old contract and was ordered into effect a few minutes before I had taken office.
MAYOR ED KOCH: Hi, hi. How am I doing?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Unintelligible) I'm going to give you all I've got, everything I've got. I wouldn't give it to anybody else. I saved it for you because I want you to have it, every one of you. You know what it is? I'm going to be your mayor for the next 20 years.
MAYOR TOM BRADLEY: We have to begin to think beyond the end of this incident and to what we can do to rebuild.
MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI: The city is going to survive. We're going to get through it. It's going to be a very, very difficult time. I don't think we yet know the pain that we're going to feel when we find out who we lost. But the thing we have to focus on now is getting the city through this.
MAYOR GAVIN NEWSOM: It is my extraordinary honor to pronounce you spouses for life.
CONAN: The voices of some of the country's most memorable mayors, city leaders who face any number of challenges, some in their control like budgets and staffing, some completely out of their hands: weather, natural disasters, strikes and riots. Mayors, we want to hear from you. What was your worst moment in office? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, firstname.lastname@example.org. And Ryan Holeywell, a staff writer with Governing magazine, covers mayors around the country, joins us here in Studio 3A. Nice to have you on the program today.
RYAN HOLEYWELL: Thank you for having me.
CONAN: And key races this year coming up Boston, New York, L.A.?
HOLEYWELL: Boston, New York, L.A., Detroit.
CONAN: And there are some - I think L.A. comes up first.
HOLEYWELL: Yeah, they'll be having their election very soon next month. Antonio Villaraigosa, you know, popular mayor, he's been there for a long time, national profile, and he'll be departing.
CONAN: And he'll be departing. So who looks set to replace him, a Democrat we suspect, Ken.
RUDIN: Well actually it's a nonpartisan race in Los Angeles in the March 5 primary, but it's interesting. We talked about Tom Bradley, the first African-American mayor of Los Angeles in the '70s and '80s. We have Villaraigosa the first Latino. But we have an opportunity for the first female mayor, the first openly gay mayor, the first Jewish mayor of Los Angeles.
CONAN: All in one person?
RUDIN: Well actually some of them - one of the women, Jan Perry is black and Jewish. How do you like that?
CONAN: That's interesting. All right, so obviously New York and Boston. And Tom Menino, the governor of - the mayor of Boston has been ill, and there's a question about whether he's going to be running again.
RUDIN: He's 70 years old. There's a question of whether he'll run for the sixth term. He's been in the hospital for a month, he had been in the hospital for a month with a virus infection. John Connolly - not that John Connolly...
CONAN: The other John Connolly...
RUDIN: The 39-year-old city councilor, has announced that he will run against him. And we're not sure whether Menino is up for another term or not.
CONAN: And in New York it looks like the head of the city council, Christine Quinn, might be a favorite, but that's a crowded race.
RUDIN: It is a crowded race. Of course, you know, it's interesting, in an overwhelmingly Democratic city, no Democratic nominee since David Dinkins in 1989, 24 years ago, has been elected. But you have Bill De Blasio, who's a New York City public advocate; Bill Thompson, the former city comptroller, who ran against Michael Bloomberg four years ago and came within four points, even though Bloomberg spend $900 gazillion. And there are other candidates, as well.
Adolfo Carrion, the former Bronx borough president, announced yesterday as an independent, third-party candidate. We have a long way to go to see how that race is going to fill out.
CONAN: And in Detroit Dave Bing has been the mayor. There's a question of whether the state is going to take over the city.
RUDIN: Dave Bing, you know, a very popular guy, he was a great ballplayer of course, of course, but at the same time Detroit's finances have been in big trouble for many, many years, and he just has a tough battle. But he should win re-election.
CONAN: Ryan Holeywell, I wanted to turn back to you. As we look at the role of the mayor in American politics, you'd think it would be a guaranteed step up to higher executive office. You do have the former mayor of Denver, currently the governor of the state of Colorado, but it's - that seems to be unusual.
HOLEYWELL: Well, it's sort of interesting, and sort of the way I've heard it described by some people who've served talked about this phenomenon is that these guys tend to love their cities so much, people from elsewhere in the state are skeptical of whether they'll have the same attention.
RUDIN: That was the Ed Koch problem when he ran for governor in '82.
CONAN: Against somebody from Queens.
RUDIN: Right, Mario Cuomo. And the last governor, the last mayor who became president, you know, was Calvin Coolidge. So that's how long it's been since a mayor moved up to that office.
CONAN: Remember Richard Lugar, of course, was once the mayor of Indianapolis, Richard Nixon's favorite mayor, as he dubbed in...
RUDIN: And Rudy Giuliani was America's favorite mayor, and he didn't make the presidency, either.
HOLEYWELL: The other challenge that I think a lot of these mayors encounter is that, you know, you look at what happens in city hall, and the work that a mayor does is very non-political, or nonpartisan rather. You know, you talk to these guys, you go to the mayors conference, and when you have conversations with them, you really don't even know if they're Democrats or Republicans.
To move up to higher office, you know, state legislature, governor, Senate, Congress, those are very partisan positions, and, you know, some of these guys just don't - aren't interested in that. They're interested in solving problems.
CONAN: The mayor of Newark seems to be interested in higher office.
HOLEYWELL: He seems like he's interested in it.
CONAN: It's Cory Booker, who's already announced plans to run for Senate in the state of New Jersey. Ken?
RUDIN: Ryan, but of course there are strong mayors and weak mayors. In other words, in Los Angeles for example, the mayor cannot appoint police commissioner or education, the head of the board of education, whereas in New York City, for example, they have that power. So sometimes the mayors are hampered by the lack of strength in the charter.
HOLEYWELL: Yeah, and, you know, I think when you look at the mayors and sort of the role of mayors across the country, I think sort of regardless of whether they're a strong mayor or whether it's a system where they have a city manager doing a lot of that sort of work, I think sort of the sort of most important role of the mayor and what they can really utilize is that power to communicate.
And that's sort of their biggest asset is that bully pulpit, advocating for their citizens, talking to the media, making the case for their city to businesses. And sort of the mayors who really seem like they excel the most are the ones who really do the best job at being able to communicate their message.
CONAN: We want to hear from those of you who have served as mayor in our audience. What was your worst moment in office? And joining us now is Anne Rudin, who's got a new nickname for the purposes of this program, Ann "No-Relation" Rudin, former mayor of Sacramento from 1983 to 1993, With us today from member station KXJZ, Capital Public Radio in Sacramento, and it's very good of you to be with us today.
ANNE RUDIN: Well, it's my pleasure. Thank you very much, and I wanted to say hello to Ken.
RUDIN: Hi Mom.
CONAN: Actually, this is the first time they've ever met, extremely unusual for that relationship.
RUDIN: You rascal. No it isn't. I met him before. He came through Sacramento when I was campaigning, and he wanted to know who this Rudin was who was running for mayor.
RUDIN: And I - over my desk I still have my Rudin for mayor bumper sticker from that 1982...
RUDIN: Oh do you?
CONAN: Was there a moment, and we're of course joking around, but was there a moment when something bad happened? What was your worst moment in office 10 years?
RUDIN: Well, there were a few bad moments.
RUDIN: Very often my worst moment was when somebody wanted to do something I knew nothing about and claimed that the mayor wanted it done. And it was not always something that I wanted to take claim - lay claim to. And then I'd have to - I'd never know that that happened, and I'd wonder why this person is mad at me, I didn't do it.
CONAN: And all of a sudden you were labeled with a policy that you didn't endorse.
RUDIN: Oh that's true. Well, very often it was just an individual thing, like somebody had to be reprimanded or fired, and the mayor wants you fired. And I didn't know...
...it was just an individual thing, like somebody had to be reprimanded or fired, and the mayor wants you fired. And I didn't know about it, and it wasn't the case. But I've not had too many bad incidents happen when I was mayor. I was mayor for 11 years, on the city council for 21, enjoyed all of it. Yes, there were some difficult times, but you get over them. And those difficult times are the challenges that make you a better public official.
CONAN: With all that time in the city council, you must have thought you were pretty well prepared to serve as mayor.
RUDIN: Oh, yeah. Well, not only was I prepared, I felt that I had some good models. Previous mayors were people that I admired. And while I had to do it my way - because I was the first woman to be elected mayor, and I had to do it my way, and especially because I was the first woman. People were watching to see how I was going to conduct the job and how I was going to behave. And I had to do it in a way that would not draw criticism of women, because I knew that other women were going to be judged on what I did.
RUDIN: Mayor Rudin - oh, I love saying that. Why couldn't it be president?
RUDIN: OK. It sounds good.
RUDIN: Yeah. I love it. But anyway, we always talk about members of Congress in Washington, and they're always campaigning. It seems like they're always raising money and always campaigning. How - as the first woman, female mayor of Sacramento - how much time did you have to spend raising money, and how much time were you actually campaigning in your 11 years?
RUDIN: For myself, you mean, or for other candidates?
RUDIN: Yes. Well, for you.
RUDIN: For myself, I - the first time I ran, which was for a city council seat, I had - I raised $5,000, and I won both the primary and general election. It got a little more difficult after that, because people were beginning to pour money into candidates. And when I finally won my last election, which was for mayor, it cost 300,000. And once you win, everybody wants to help you. So we had all kinds of fundraisers, contributions. And I didn't end up with a debt. Did I answer the whole question? I lost track of it.
CONAN: Well, you had to spend a lot of time doing that. Members of Congress complain about the amount of time they have to spend - representatives elected, and starts making fundraising calls for the next election before they're sworn in.
RUDIN: Oh, yeah. Well, I had to make a lot of fundraising calls, but after it's over, everybody wants to help you. So you don't have to spend a lot of time. People will all come to your rescue and get - they owe you out, because you're in office. The worst part is if you're - if you lose the election, and you end up with a debt. It's very, very difficult to recover that.
CONAN: We're talking with Anne Rudin, the former mayor of Sacramento. Ryan Holeywell is also with us. He's a staff writer with Governing magazine. Of course, Political Junkie Ken Rudin is with us, as he is every Wednesday.
CONAN: You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News. Ryan Holeywell, the mayors of the country try to pool their political clout. Particularly this year, we've seen a lot of campaigning against gun rights, and for assault weapons ban, for example. Yet mayors, to my knowledge, have been campaigning on that issue for decades, and have not really gotten anywhere.
HOLEYWELL: Yeah. I mean, that's one of their big issues, but they're focusing on other issues, too. You know, one of the big issues that they're working on right now - they're actually in town working on this issue right now - is trying to figure out ways to ensure that they're still able to fund their infrastructure, a big problem that cities across the country are dealing with. They're trying to figure out ways to deal with the immigration issue, trying to see if they can play a role in that debate as Congress is looking like they're going to address that this year.
So it's sort of an interesting role that the mayors have, in that they're at home, you know, trying to solve(ph) their cities. But so much of what they do depends on what the state government and the federal government...
CONAN: Policies over which they have no control.
HOLEYWELL: Yeah. And a big part of their role is being advocates.
CONAN: Let's see if we get a caller in on the conversation. This is Rosemary, Rosemary with us from Richmond, in California.
ROSEMARY: Yes. Hi.
CONAN: Hi. Were you a mayor?
ROSEMARY: Well, my - pardon?
CONAN: Were you a mayor?
ROSEMARY: I was the mayor of Richmond from 1993 until 2001. And before that, I was on the city council from 1985 until 1993.
CONAN: And what was your worst moment?
ROSEMARY: Well, a man who had been fired by our housing authority came back and shot and killed two women in the housing authority. And the city manager and I decided that we had to immediately inform their families, so they wouldn't hear it on the radio or television. So I had to go and tell a woman - I went with a police captain and a priest to a woman's home and told her that her 24-year-old daughter had just been shot and killed. And I had a 24-year-old daughter at that time.
And this woman kept saying to me: Why? Why? Oh, it was so hard.
CONAN: And yet it needed to be done, and you took the responsibility to do it.
ROSEMARY: Yes. Well, that's your job in that situation, and I'm glad I did it because she needed to hear it in the privacy of her home, in that way. And I did have a priest, as I said, with me.
CONAN: Anne, Mayor Rudin, I know you must have sympathy here.
RUDIN: Very much. I never had that kind of an incident to cope with, but I could just imagine what it was like.
CONAN: And, Rosemary, what - looking back on it, is there something that you might have done differently, that - for your tenure there?
ROSEMARY: You mean over my eight years?
ROSEMARY: I came into office - I ran against the incumbent, a man who had been in office for quite a while. And so I had a lot of opposition on the city council. And I worked hard to find ways of getting people who had the ear of the council members who wouldn't listen to me to talk to them about issues, to bring consensus. And I guess, you know, it wasn't always easy, but, you know, anything that I could do to improve communicating to get the majority on the council was - would be what I would do.
CONAN: Hmm. Well, thank you for calling and sharing that terrible moment. We appreciate it.
ROSEMARY: You're welcome. Bye-bye.
CONAN: And, Anne Rudin, thanks very much for your time today.
RUDIN: Well, it was my pleasure. Thank you very much. And I enjoyed hearing what others - other mayors had to say.
CONAN: Anne Rudin, mayor of Sacramento for more than a decade. She spoke with us today from member station KXJZ. That's Capital Public Radio in Sacramento. And, Ryan Holeywell, a staff writer with Governing magazine, joined us here in Studio 3A. Thank you very much for your time today.
HOLEYWELL: Thank you.
CONAN: Ken Rudin is going to stay with us. When we come back, we're going to be joined by NPR health policy correspondent, Julie Rovner, about the shifting politics of health care as yet another Republican governor signs onto a key element of Obamacare. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.