RICHMOND -- What promises to be a lively political season in Richmond got an added jolt Wednesday as news circulated that longtime Councilman Tom Butt pulled papers for a possible mayoral run.
"I have until Friday to decide, so I figured I better get the papers," Butt said. "Look, a lot of people have been pressuring me to do this, and I think Richmond needs somebody in the middle of the major candidates that are out there, but I haven't decided."
Rumors have swirled all summer that Butt might throw his hat in the ring, and intensified last month when his ally, West Contra Costa school board trustee Charles Ramsey, dropped out of the mayoral race in favor of a council run.
If the 70-year-old Butt runs, he'll enter a field featuring Councilman Nat Bates, Richmond Progressive Alliance activist Mike Parker and small business owner Uche Uwahemu.
Butt, a blunt-speaking architect and longtime councilman, sees himself as a potential moderate option between Bates, who is supported by Chevron Corp. and other big business interests, and Parker, who is endorsed by environmental and union groups. In addition to his legislative work, Butt has cultivated a large following from his popular online forum, which he uses for a mix of colorful commentary, poll taking and sharing articles from local media.
Bates issued a statement via email Wednesday, writing that "it seems that Butt's inability to convince Charles Ramsey to run for mayor was so disappointing, he has taken out papers and has been collecting signatures during the National Night Out to garner the necessary 30 registered voters necessary to qualify." Bates added, "Look for an interesting campaign."
Bates and Butt have been rivals on the council for more than a decade. Both were re-elected in 2012.
Reached by phone Wednesday, Parker said, "There's always been rumors that Tom might run, that's not new," and added that he would reserve comment until official word that Butt will enter the race.
The deadline to file for candidacy with the City Clerk is Friday.
News that Butt pulled papers prompted a mix of jubilation and criticism by residents on social media.
Richmond political observers said Butt, who has a powerful base in his Point Richmond neighborhood, will have a major effect on the race. Butt ran for mayor in 2001 but lost to Irma Anderson. He had expressed disappointment when his RPA allies declined to endorse Ramsey, and instead decided to run Parker.
"We're not scared of Tom running," said Joe Fisher, a Bates supporter. "I think Butt will pull votes away from Parker, not Bates."
Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726. Follow him at Twitter.com/sfbaynewsrogers.