STOCKTON, Calif. — On the same night Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, 26-year-old Michael Tubbs made history by becoming the country’s youngest mayor of a major city.
Over the course of his term, he became nationally known for launching the first basic income program in the U.S.
What You Need To Know
- In 2016, 26-year-old Michael Tubbs made history by becoming the country’s youngest mayor of a major city
- Earlier this month, Tubbs lost his bid for reelection to the Republican challenger, Kevin Lincoln
- The young Democrat led Stockton out of bankruptcy and is leaving behind a $13 million budget surplus
- Tubbs wished he had done more to fight false information that was circulating about him on a local blog
Despite these achievements, Mayor Tubbs lost his bid for re-election earlier this month to the Republican challenger, Kevin Lincoln. Tubbs explained that racism and misinformation are ultimately what caused him to lose out on another four years in office. In retrospect, he wished he had done more to fight false information that was circulating about him on a local blog.
However, Tubbs is extremely proud of the time he spent serving as a councilman and as the youngest — and first — Black mayor of his hometown. Tubbs calls his time as the mayor of Stockton the honor of a lifetime.
"Well, much like me, Stockton is an underdog city," he said. "It’s a city people look at and scoff. It’s a city people look at and say nothing good can come from."
The millennial mayor was determined to put his community on the map when he took office. Since then, he’s gained national attention after Stockton became the first city in the nation to launch a privately funded program that gives low-income families $500 per month with no strings attached.
“Now, we have 30 mayors who are standing up and saying, 'I want to be a part of Mayor Tubbs' basic income; I want to do what Stockton did,'" said Tubbs. "You have bills in Congress that are based off of what Stockton did. I’m incredibly proud.
The young Democrat led Stockton out of bankruptcy and is leaving behind a $13 million budget surplus. Under Tubbs’ leadership, the city also saw a 40% reduction in shootings and homicides.
Despite his accomplishments and an HBO documentary about his efforts, Tubbs was unable to win a second term. After realizing he was down by a 10-point margin, he called the incoming mayor to concede.
“It was tough to do," he said. "I don’t like losing. I generally don’t lose. But it was the right thing to do, and I’m glad we did that because I think it’s given the mayor-elect time to meet with people and not feel like there’s some cloud, or this is a corrupt election. It’s allowed my team to begin the transition."
Tubbs is still optimistic about his future and career but added that he should have paid more attention to what was being written about him in a local blog with more than 100,000 followers on Facebook and 119,000 on Instagram.
Motecuzoma Sanchez, the founder of the site "209 Times," credits his social media posts for Tubbs’ loss.
“I personally, and my organization, take responsibility for the political defeat of Michael Tubbs, but ultimately it was the community that spoke,” he said.
Sanchez explained that he made it his goal to remove Tubbs from office after Tubbs voted against the reopening of a library that Sanchez had fought to bring back.
“We ran a four-year, sustained, consistent, persistent campaign of exposing him on so many issues, on so many fronts,” said Sanchez.
However, Mayor Tubbs noted that the website was spreading false information about him and his family.
"The claims were so ridiculous, how do you respond?" he said. "One claim was, the city paid for my wedding in Colombia, and I went to Colombia for a drug deal."
Tubbs recognized that criticism comes with the territory of being an elected official but believes many of the comments about him were not only false, but unacceptable.
"Being a public official doesn’t mean you sign up for abuse, and definitely not your family," he said. "We had people on that stupid website saying they wish my baby got SIDS. There are people saying that my wife was pregnant by somebody else. It was just so crazy and bizarre."
When asked about some of these outrageous claims, Sanchez said he did not author them but admitted he doesn’t always monitor what others write.
Tubbs added that a lot of the misinformation, such as accusations of him stealing money from the city, stemmed from racism.
“It only resonates because I’m Black, and people connect Black people with criminality and expect the Black man to steal," he said. "Same thing with Mayor Tubbs being corrupt, Mayor Tubbs is a thug."
While his days as mayor are coming to an end, Tubbs said he’s not done fighting for the people of Stockton and promises to continue to push for progress in the future.