At the close of polls last week, Jesse Ortiz held a 723 vote lead over Sam Neustadt, which represented a 51.6 to 48.4 advantage. However, drilling down into the numbers, we see that Jesse Ortiz, who held a 3 to 1 monetary advantage, a sizable name recognition advantage, and an endorsement advantage, won handily in both Woodland and West Sacramento but fell handily in Davis.
Overall, Jesse Ortiz received about 51.6 percent of the vote. However, in Davis, Sam Neustadt won by over 500 votes with a 53.1 to 46.9 margin advantage. In the rest of the district, however, Jesse Ortiz got 54.6 to 45.4 percent of the vote, beating Mr. Neustadt by nearly 1300 votes.
We will explore that question in a moment, but first, the Sam Neustadt campaign, when we inquired about Davis, told the Vanguard, “Given the number of votes still uncounted, we are reserving comment at this time.”
While we certainly understand that viewpoint, we analyzed the potential for Mr. Neustadt to come back and find it to be very remote.
The latest information indicates that there are 7200 votes remaining. While that sounds like a sizable number, over 22,000 have been cast and there is a 700 vote lead.
In order for Sam Neustadt to gain the lead, he would have to get 55% percent of that remaining vote (3958 to 3242). That is not only far greater than his current overall percentage of the vote, it is even greater than the percentage of the vote he is receiving in Davis. That means even if all of the remaining votes were in Davis, he would have to increase his vote share.
Again, there is little reason to believe that there is a skewed distribution of votes that remain to be counted. And there is no reason why we would expect this group of ballots to go overwhelmingly for Mr. Neustadt. Therefore, while it is not impossible for Mr. Neustadt to win, it is very unlikely.
In Woodland, only three precincts went for Sam Neustadt. In West Sacramento, none did. But in Davis, he won 25 precincts and overall 53 percent of the vote.
We talked to a lot of people with knowledge of Davis and the race. There is a some split in the viewpoints. One argues that Davis claims to be “progressive,” more so than Woodland or West Sacramento, but preferred the least progressive candidate.
Jessie Ortiz, they argue, supported universal preschool, holding charter schools accountable, focusing on low-income and first generation students, and focusing on special education programs.
One supporter of Sam Neustadt argued that he was better qualified for the job and better known in Davis. Jesse Ortiz’s base of support is in Woodland, so naturally he would do better there. But that does not really explain West Sacramento either.
Adding to the intrigue is that Jesse Ortiz was endorsed by all five of Davis’ City Councilmembers. However, Sam Neustadt also had prominent individuals in the community supporting him – Delaine Eastin, Jan Bridge (former school board member), Susan Lovenburg, Alan Fernandes (school board member) and Marty West.
Mr. Neustadt gained the endorsement of the Davis Enterprise as well, which in a race of this sort may be more critical than a city council race where the public has much greater awareness.
If Davis is such a progressive community, they asked, why didn’t Davis support the more progressive candidate?
The view from several Jesse Ortiz supporters in Davis was that the electorate here in Davis really did not know him that well and he really had not spent a lot of time in Davis socially or politically until he ran for the Superintendent of Schools.
Ground games are important and it seems that there was not much of a ground campaign by Mr. Ortiz in Davis, whereas Sam Neustadt seemed to have a lot more energy.
Mr. Ortiz is well-known in Woodland and probably had a better base in West Sacramento, whereas Mr. Neustadt seemed to have very little base of support outside of Davis.
Mr. Ortiz, we are told, did make it a point to come to many Davis events that he had never come to before, but that paled in comparison to the type of effort in Davis it takes to introduce yourself.
Robb Davis, a relative unknown, was able to overcome that to win a seat on the Davis City Council. He did so by walking each precinct in Davis and talking to hundreds if not thousands of Davis voters. That is the type of effort it takes for an unknown to win in Davis. Going to events is good and important, but that only captures the politically active class.
It comes down to this – up until the Election Day endorsement of Sam Neustadt by West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, Sam Neustadt really did not have a huge base in either Woodland or West Sacramento to be able to counter the built-in advantages that Jesse Ortiz had.
In Davis, he was able to overcome that and some people believe that had the race ended a few weeks later, Mr. Neustadt actually had the momentum and may well have won. The numbers do not necessarily suggest that, however.
—David M. Greenwald reporting