Guest essay from Nicholas Hatten

One of the enjoyable developments within San Joaquin County politics has been watching the evolution of the City of Tracy politics. Tracy has a special place in my heart because one of my mom’s best friends lived in Tracy. My mom worked at the Tracy Defense Depot, so outside of Stockton, Tracy was the city within our county I knew best. To watch it shift from an extremely conservative community with strong ties to ag culture to a more progressive community with strong ties to the Bay Area has been fascinating to observe. One of the oddest episodes during this time has been the metamorphosis of Robert Rickman from a CHIPS-like image to bumbling Barney Fife villain waiting to star in the Coen Brother’s next season of Fargo. What Happened?

Now, before I get too deep into the weeds with this story, I want to make sure we keep some level of perspective. Robert Rickman is a bad politician and even worse community leader. Here is a “greatest hits” of his misdeeds. He:

  • Stated he would cooperate with ICE to arrest undocumented people in
  • Voted against ethics policies for the Tracy City
  • Attempted to dissemble efforts to create community participatory policies on homelessness – without any logical explanation for attacking and fighting them beyond “it wasn’t his idea”.
  • When asked what his own homelessness policy was, he said he would give the homeless a bus pass to Stockton CA, and then engaged in a pathetic public fight against Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs.
  • He has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with racist congressional candidate Ted Howze and 209 Times leaders who have been accused of using racism, sexism and homophobia as political tools to attack their opponents. They also race-baited San Joaquin County’s youth during the start of the Black Lives Matter 2020 efforts by posting social media content that encouraged rioting and looting.
  • His supervisorial race has been endorsed by the San Joaquin County Republican



Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…

During the early aughts I was the Chair of the San Joaquin County Democratic Party. One of the candidates I worked hard for was Robert Rickman. His bio on paper was great and he was not afraid of being a democrat, like most politicians in Tracy were at the time. When he won his election, our local Dem party activist saw it as a sign of change– and it was. Soon Tracy City Council had a Dem majority for the first time ever. Yet that victory was short lived.

The change started in 2015 when rumors that Rickman was participating in political strategy meetings with tea party extremist “Ole Smokey”, AKA Bob Elliott. Then he started voting with the republican majority on the city council. Last year he switched his party affiliation to “decline to state”. The local conservative movement does a great job of crying that local commissions, boards and councils are non-partisan. I scream BS. They make that claim because as time passes, their voter registration advantages have faded, so it is a way for them to maintain their power. Tracy is a strong Dem majority city and the school boards and councils should reflect that. That is the power of representation.


Even before dropping his party affiliation, Rickman was always an odd-man-out. He is not a “people person”, so he never cultivated relationships with local activists. He never championed social justice issues. Heck, he has never championed anything… He is a permanent lame duck politician that is there to…well, be there. And yet somehow that got him elected mayor! (For the record, I would argue that speaks more on how unengaged voters are than Rickman’s political skill.)

However, none of this compares to Robert Rickman aligning himself with the racist, sexist and homophobic tactics of Motec Sanchez and 209 Times. If you’ve got the time and wanna go down the spade-wiki hole of 209 Times, click here:

While Tracy’s mayor, Rickman endorsed Motec Sanchez for Stockton Mayor; despite NAACP President Bobby Bivens previously calling out Sanchez for his racist and homophobic actions. Robert also endorsed racist congressional candidate Ted Howze despite the Republican National Party and all local leaders, (sans Tom Patti), retracting their support. To date, Rickman has not apologized for his Sanchez endorsement and refuses to un-endorse Howze. Both Rickman and Howze are championed by the fake news site 209 Times that Sanchez manages. Hate begets hate.

So here we are. Rickman wants to be promoted to Board of Supervisor. Despite rarely taking a position on the important issues of our day; despite not having signature issues that he champions; despite not having much of a record as a councilman or mayor. Rickman wants to continue the “good ole boy” style of county governance. That means doing nothing; don’t prioritize communities of color; and don’t collaborate with local cities to address the pressing issues of our time. Is that what South San Joaquin County really needs?