Commentary: Can You Win in Davis for Less Than $25,000?

Joe-Speaks

On Election Night, it was 9:30 pm, we still had a long way to go, but one thing that was very very obvious, Joe Krovoza would at the very least for certain be elected to the City Council and barring a huge surprise, finish first and be elected as Mayor Pro Tem.  And so in the middle of his living room he gave a brief political speech, thanking his supporters and introducing his team.

One thing that he mentioned in his speech was how they did it, and the biggest surprise of all is that despite finishing first, despite spending the most money in the campaign, he did not send out a single mailer.  Instead they ran a very grassroots oriented campaign, organizing around neighborhoods and having neighbors talk to neighbors.

There were three candidates who spent money in the election.  Rochelle Swanson was the only one that we received a mailer from, it was a small introductory postcard.  Sydney Vergis apparently sent out postcards to some voters, we never got one and her big push was the TV Ads, which I am convinced while rather inexpensive are a waste of money in Davis.

Are we seeing a return to Davis’ more grassroots oriented campaigning?  In November, the No on P effort was badly outspent by the Yes on P effort.  Yes on P spent somewhere around $200,000, while the No on P effort spent only a few thousand.  Despite spending $200,000 or so, the Yes on P effort spent far less than the Yes on X effort which has reported over $600,000 in spending, sending out dozens of mailers which many people think backfired.  To this day, those on the No on X side believe that the real spending was closer to a million.

Even with the Davis Enterprise barely covering the campaign, there was enough free coverage of the race between the letters to the editor, the Vanguard, Farmer’s Market, DCTV, and neighborhood organizing efforts that people were able to learn about the election and the candidates. 

For our part, our readership surged to record levels in May, surpassing even the days of Measure P.  I had people I had never even met coming up to me at Farmer’s Market, thanking me for the coverage of the campaign.

I have only anecdotal evidence that people got the word about the campaigns, and that is the results were in line with what we believed all along.  In fact, this was the most predictable election that we have watched or covered.  No surprises at all.  Joe Krovoza led from wire to wire.  We believe that Rochelle Swanson passed Sydney Vergis some time in May, and the two candidates that did not spend money finished in the predicted order, fourth and fifth.

The key question that I have, is given free media opportunities, given the Davis-backlash against expensive mailers, heck people still think our mailer was expensive, can we keep campaign spending down where it was this year.

Rich Rifkin on Wednesday in the Davis Enterprise argues no and gives four reasons.

First he argues that the economy played a role.  He writes, “A lot of Davisites no longer have a few extra bucks for politics. The university is cutting back; the city, county and schools have less money; the state government is in dire straits; and local businesses are suffering along with their customers.”

Second he argues that the firefighters stepped out this year, “They did not buy influence with any of the candidates in 2010.”  He continued, “In 2008, they invested almost $12,000 in three candidates, and they kicked in $8,000 more for those three with an ‘independent expenditure.’  With Davis now lurching toward bankruptcy due to extravagant labor packages – which still have not been reformed – an endorsement from the firefighters was seen this season as the scarlet letter, a symbol of infidelity to the taxpayers.”

Third, he argued there were no incumbents, “A third reason this crop of candidates failed to raise more money has to do with the candidates themselves. Not one of them is an incumbent. That’s unusual to have a Davis City Council race without a single holdover running.”

Finally, he argued, “hat there are no major housing developments on the horizon (other than a long-shot senior-only project on the Covell Village land). Our entire housing market is stuck in neutral. So developers, who invest in candidates in exchange for profitable votes, see less reason to invest as much this year.”

I think he has good points here.  Let me put it this way, I am sure in a future election someone will raise $50,000 again.  The real question is whether they need to raise $50,000 to win.  Would someone have beaten Joe Krovoza by doubling the amount of money he raised, or was his approach simply better.  Again, Measure P raised more than ten times the amount of the opposition, and they still lost by a large margin.  Granted it is easier to organize against a Measure than for a politician, but the fundamental fact in Davis is with good organization, one does not need a ton of money to win.  To me that is what this race showed.

The economy is down, the firefighters were neutralized, at least in part by our own efforts, in part by some of the candidate’s unwillingness to tied themselves to the firefighters, there is no huge project although certainly John Whitcombe and CHA are looking for an opening, and there were no incumbents.

Call me naive, but I think with good organizations, you can win in Davis for less than $20,000 in spending.  The more I see it, the less I’m convinced that mail works.  It ends up jamming up in your box and most people just chuck all of their political mail without seeing it.  Therefore you have to get the message past the box.

The one thing I was really disappointed in this past election, and I know I criticize the Enterprise for sport, but they have to cover the election more.  Otherwise what is their point?  There were kind of two points in the election, that someone wrote something in the Enterprise that just made me shake my head.

First, when the Davis Enterprise editorial page in Supporting Measure Q, which was fine, said that Davis was well-managed.  To me this really tells me that these guys really are not paying attention.  Their rationale was absurd, looking at a 15% reserve which they admit would be eaten up almost immediately with the failure to pass Measure Q.  So why is that any kind of sign of fiscal management?  Anyone who watches the city operate for any length of time gets the exact opposite sense. 

Davis is not well-managed.  What separates Davis from other cities, is that with a large number of state workers whether working in Sacramento or at UC Davis, they are less vulnerable to the rise and fall of the economy as cities relying on private sector business.  And even that is changing this recession.  That has allowed the city to remain okay both in terms of unemployment and also property values.  But even that is starting to change, especially if the state and local budget crises continue.

However, where Davis is in trouble, is where most of the state is, one compensation issues.  I had thought based on previous columns, the Enterprise got it.  The problem is not the relatively small $1 million budget deficit, rather it’s the unfunded obligations that may end up running ten times that amount and are eventually going to force the city to make some tough choices.  That day is coming up quickly.  Meanwhile as you read around the state, cities are going to start dropping like flies.

The other head shaker was the commenter in the Dunning’s column who said that this campaign has really not had any substantial issues.  Suddenly I realized what was happening, the Davis Enterprise was not covering this election, not what was really happening.  They were not covering the serious issues facing the city in terms of the budget, compensation, retirement benefits, unmet needs like roadway repairs, etc.  They were not covering the bulk of the candidates forums.  They were not on the ground hearing the constant sniping.  They were not talking to people in the community unless those people wrote letters or sent an email to Dunning.

I made it a point the last few weeks to go to Farmer’s Market, to talk to people, to listen to people talking to the candidates, for the precise reason that I wanted to see what was happening on the ground.  I went to all of the candidate’s forums and covered them extensively.  It was my work and efforts that uncovered irregularities in the “Independent” Expenditure.  I had a good laugh when someone thanked Bob Dunning for his work in reporting on IE-Gate.  It was not his work that uncovered that, it was the work of this site.

But the bottom line really is that there is no excuse for the Enterprise not to cover the council and other local races far more than they do.  The community needs good sources for campaign coverage.  They need reporting, they need analysis, and they need good commentary.

The more that gets covered on the ground, the less reliant people will be on spending money to get out their message.  People did not take either of the candidates seriously who did not take campaign donations, but I would love to get to the point where a person who does not take or spend any money can be considered a viable candidate and have a chance to win. 

I would love to see someone organize a campaign around people and neighborhoods and spent a few bucks on quarter page leaflets printed at Kinkos.  That is small town Democracy and I think we can still get that in a town of 65,000 that is as active and engaged as this one.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Related posts

28 Comments

  1. Dr. Wu

    Unfortunately Rifkin could be right, but I hope not. And the money factor was intimidating to a number of people who were considering a run during the last cycle. This is an argument for district elections, though I think there are strong arguments against district elections as well.

    Free media helps, as does an informed public.

  2. David M. Greenwald

    I just looked it up, on Wednesday the Enterprise had a story on the council outcome, and nothing since. No analysis. No in-depth story on the winners. Nothing.

    They had a brief story on Sunday on the financial numbers, but no election preview. They re-ran their editorial recommending candidates.

    They had no other article on the campaign in the month of June.

  3. davisite2

    Joe Krovosa’s campaign was perfect for this time of rising populist anger against entrenched and powerful special interests. Will populism again wane as economic times improve? History, sadly, suggests that it will.

  4. davisite2

    With this new City Council with its potential for a more populist agenda,this IS the time to take a serious look at Davis Council district elections. One could just as well have argued that Measure J was not needed because at the time(2000), the Council majority that put it on the ballot was not in the Developers’ pocket. What would Davis now look like if, in that brief populist hiatus in Davis’ recent developer-controlled Council history, that Council majority had not taken that opportunity to put Measure J before the voters?

  5. Rich Rifkin

    [i]”Joe Krovoza’s campaign was perfect for this time of rising populist anger against entrenched and powerful special interests.”[/i]

    Really? I think Joe came across as a competent, ethical, intelligent and nice person, who has a lot of friends and ran a good campaign. But a populist? I can’t think of a single thing he wrote or said (in the debates) which was populist*. Did he appeal to prejudice against the wealthy, for example? He is a bicycling advocate. However, that is really mainstream in Davis. He has not called for the “banning of cars as a symbol of oppression.”

    Even though there are a lot of left-wingers in Davis, this town is not Berkeley. Almost everyone here thinks of themselves and their kids as above average or higher. Our GATE program puts Lake Woebegon to shame. Our community ethic is far more rational and acquisitive and far less emotional and envious. The closest we have had to a populist candidate — though she did not have the anger in her rhetoric which populists normally have — was Julie Partansky (who came from Berkeley). But on the council, I don’t recall any “anti-elitist” rhetoric from her.

    *Joe did not take any money from developers (or firefighters). I guess you could call that populist. I would call it ethical.

  6. Don Shor

    Rich: “The closest we have had to a populist candidate — though she did not have the anger in her rhetoric which populists normally have — was Julie Partansky.”
    She also probably set an all-time record for the lowest cost per vote in a winning campaign.

  7. David M. Greenwald

    Rich:

    I think once again you draw too narrow a definition of populism.

    One definition: “1. A supporter of the rights and power of the people.”

    Another: ” appealing to the interests or prejudices of ordinary people”

    A populist can appeal to anger or prejudice, but doesn’t have to. But Joe is no populist.

  8. Rich Rifkin

    David, I concede that the term ‘populist’ is quite vague. However, all definitions include an appeal to popular prejudices. Hitler’s anti-Semitism was clearly in the populist vein. I think this quote (from this source ([url]http://www.reference.com/browse/wiki/Populism[/url])) has merit: [quote]Daniele Albertazzi and Duncan McDonnell who, in their volume Twenty-First Century Populism, define populism as pitting “a virtuous and homogeneous people against a set of elites and dangerous ‘others’ who are together depicted as depriving (or attempting to deprive) the sovereign people of their rights, values, prosperity, identity and voice.”[/quote] That does not exactly sound like Joe Krovoza’s platform.

  9. David M. Greenwald

    Rich: As my late friend, who introduced me to populism would say, Hitler’s was a false populism. That’s exploitation of the people (and their prejudices) rather than tapping into the “will of the people.”

  10. Rich Rifkin

    Good examples of contemporary American populists are Michael Moore, Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, Pat Buchanan, Sarah Palin, etc. A lot of the anti-tax and anti-immigrant rhetoric on the right is populist. Most of the anti-Wall Street and anti-multinational corporation rhetoric on the left is populist. Dick Gephardt’s tirades against liberal trade was populist. Islamism and anti-Zionism are forms of populism.

  11. Rich Rifkin

    [i]”Hitler’s was a false populism.”[/i]

    Naziism sure fits the Albertazzi/McDonnell* definition. It pitted “a virtuous and homogeneous people” — the Aryan Germans — “against a set of elites and dangerous ‘others’ — the Jews, other intellectuals and other non-Aryan elements — “who are together depicted as depriving (or attempting to deprive) the sovereign people of their rights, values, prosperity, identity and voice.”

    *Albertazzi is an Italian scholar. His research is focused on Mussolini ([url]http://www.italian.bham.ac.uk/staff/albertazzi.shtml[/url]). But he certainly includes Hitler as a populist.

    *”Duncan McDonnell ([url]http://us.macmillan.com/author/duncanmcdonnell[/url]) is Dottorando di Ricerca in the Department of Political Studies, University of Turin, Italy, where he is conducting research on the relationship between directly-elected local leaders and political parties. He is also involved in projects on new parties in government and political leadership in Western Europe.”

  12. rusty49

    “I just looked it up, on Wednesday the Enterprise had a story on the council outcome, and nothing since. No analysis. No in-depth story on the winners. Nothing.

    They had a brief story on Sunday on the financial numbers, but no election preview. They re-ran their editorial recommending candidates.

    They had no other article on the campaign in the month of June.”

    The Enterprise is pretty much a waste of trees. They hardly ever have anything of depth, I had to laugh when one writer basically used posts from this blog to write her column. I only take the subscription when I can get it for $26/year and that’s only to see what some of the local issues are and read some of Dunning’s articles.

  13. davisite2

    “A populist can appeal to anger or prejudice, but doesn’t have to. But Joe is no populist.”

    David: I am confused with your post here. First you say that a definition of populism(the one that I agree with) is,”a supporter of the rights and power of the people”. Joe Krovoza stated agenda for his Council tenure is transparency in our local government and empowering citizen commissions to be an integral part of the process of Davis Council decision-making. IMO, this IS in the best-tradition of DAVIS populism. I will not join Rich Rifkin on his “journey” into Nazi “populism” except to say that German National Socialism, in its beginnings, was characterized as populist and socialist(with many Jewish leaders for that matter). Hitler’s “night of the long knives” wiped out(murdered) the populist/socialist leaders of National Socialism , ushering in Nazi authoritarianism with the strong support of the largest German corporate powers of that time, the very antithesis of populism.

  14. J.R.

    davisite2 writes
    “German National Socialism, in its beginnings, was characterized as populist and socialist(with many Jewish leaders for that matter).”

    This is news to me, as I was under the impression that the Nazi party was based on the anti-semitic philosophy of Hitler as expressed in Mein Kampf. Can you provide a reference for this, or did you just make it up?

  15. Rich Rifkin

    [i]”German National Socialism, in its beginnings, was characterized as populist and socialist(with many Jewish leaders for that matter).”[/i]

    I love the way D2 just makes up b#llsh#t like this. The Nazis never had any Jewish members. They were based on hatred of the Jews from the very start.

    I’m looking forward to D2 next telling us that Hamas is a Jewy organization.

  16. Rich Rifkin

    First you say that a definition of populism (the one that I agree with) is, “a supporter of the rights and power of the people”.

    You do realize that that is a completely vacuous phrase? I know coming from the guy who thinks Hitler’s earliest supporters were Jewish the word vacuous may fly right over your head. But it really does mean nothing. It’s the kind of vague folly that politicians of every stripe use: [quote] I am running for this office ladies and gentleman because I am now, always have been and always will be a supporter of the rights and power of the people!” [/quote] D2 writes: [i]”Joe Krovoza stated agenda for his Council tenure is transparency in our local government …”[/i]

    I don’t recall anywhere that Joe ever talked about “transparency.” I’m not saying he didn’t. But it’s odd that you think that is his highest priority when it does not even appear on his website or in any interviews he has given (AFAIK).

    D2 thinks Joe stands for : [i]” … empowering citizen commissions to be an integral part of the process of Davis Council decision-making.”[/i]

    I don’t doubt he said this. I did not hear him say that. However, don’t fool yourself about the commissions. They are not and never should be “populist” organizations. I serve on a commission and happily so. But no one elected me; and I have no power (and should have no power). The only democratically empowered organization is the city council itself. The council appoints people to the commissions; and the commissions are there to help the council with new ideas, facts, analyses, recommendations and so on. I agree with you that they ought to be a part of the “council’s decision-making.” However, your implication that the commissions are expressions of populism is nutty.

  17. Rich Rifkin

    FWIW, Here is a 10 point list of what Joe Krovoza emphasized in 9 candidate forums ([url]http://www.davisvanguard.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3483:city-council-candidates-on-the-top-ten-issues-facing-davis&catid=50:elections&Itemid=83[/url]) according to the Vanguard. Greater authority for commissions and transparency did not make David’s recount of Joe’s top 10:

    1. “I think the primary problem is that we are not adequately respecting the probabilities of increased costs down the road. … I think that we can look at health care expenditures that we’re contributing toward our employees’ and we can look at the pension situation … we’ve got an increasingly high probability of being in much tougher straits down the road than we are now.”

    2. “I think that the buyout for employee health if your spouse is covered is unprecedented for a city, especially one in our fiscal consideration. If we have public employee jobs open and we have hundreds of applicants for them, whether it’s the safety area or not, that tells you that this is a bit of a buyers market and we need to make sure we’re very careful there.”

    3. “… we have to take a very realistic look at both how much the city is putting away to contribute to our employees and we have to evaluate whether the level of benefit is what we can truly sustain long term. … Bringing the benefit down to an adequate level and making sure it’s not overly generous is the right thing to do.

    4. “… (Measure J) “forces us to think about developing closer, using the land that we have.” He said, he wants “to focus on workforce housing and keeping the people who work in Davis, living in Davis. He also talked about the need for greater density.

    5. “In terms of an advocate for senior housing, absolutely. In terms of the type of senior housing, I just need to understand that a bit better before I take a position in front of such an austere group.”

    6. “I still am not convinced that the city has looked strong enough at (water) conservation to make sure that there aren’t some ways that conservation can reduce the supply need whether it be the water supply or wastewater treatment or even groundwater quality for that matter. And then I think that the best way to encourage conservation and such is to make sure we have pricing structures, both on the water supply/ wastewater treatment side that are not regressive, that truly are progressive, and that provide incentives.”

    7. “I am very worried that West Village is going to feel like, for lack of a better term, a gated community. There are incredible poor connections between the current design and the rest of the community. I think it should be annexed and if I’m on the city council, I will hard to get it annexed.”

    8. “I’m not accepting any bundled funds. … I think the test is to look at who is doing business directly with the city council. So if I’m sitting on the dais I don’t want to have people coming in front of the council who are doing direct private business with the city council.”

    9. “I would say I want to preserve a strong ag buffer around Davis as wide as possible. I think that’s what creates a great uniqueness to our community. I think that Measure J/ Measure R is a strong mechanism to be able to provide that.”

    10. Believes that the rental market is getting softer and added, “I’m just going to say, flat out, you guys need to get more organized. With the rental market getting soft, that’s absolutely the opportunity for you guys to fight back.”

  18. davisite2

    “davisite2 writes
    “German National Socialism, in its beginnings, was characterized as populist and socialist(with many Jewish leaders for that matter).”

    JR: thanks for the thoughtful request. My remarks were based upon a book on the period that I read some time ago by a world-class German scholar. The name and author escapes me now after 20 years but I’ll continue to look for it… orange thick paper back edition as I remember. German National Socialism existed as a minor political movement well before Hitler took it over and shaped it into a fascist model. It was founded as the name implies… nationalist and socialist,a leftist socialist movement that incorporated nationalistic, often ethnic-purity beliefs. My recollection of Jewish leaders at its beginnings I cannot confirm without finding this resource that is floating somewhere around my home. I will not argue this point without it. Recent revisionist historical work on this period is revealing that the narrative that members of this original National Socialist Workers movement,right before and at the founding of the Weimer Republic, included mainstream labor groups and not exclusively society’s outcasts and criminals as the accepted history describes.

  19. Rich Rifkin

    D2: [i]”German National Socialism existed as a minor political movement well before Hitler took it over and shaped it into a fascist model.”[/i]

    This is wrong. The Nazi Party, which was first called the German Workers’ Party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) was founded in 1919 and was always fascistic. (In 1920, they added National Socialist to the name, but the ideology remained the same.) The very first paper the Nazis produced called for Germany to be judenfrei (“free of Jews”). The Nazis were always a group of racists and anti-Semites who called for “Aryan purity” and (like all populists) believed that the ordinary people were being held back by some cabal of elites (i.e., Jews, bankers, capitalists) and that scum (Jews, Gypsies, gays, Slavs) needed to be eliminated for the people to be in charge of their own affairs.

    The timing of the founding of Nazism is important. (There were other anti-Semitic parties formed in other parts of Germany in 1918 and 1919.) It came on the heels of the WW1 armistice. Many Germans, not just Nazis, believed they would have won the War, but their government (which they attributed to Jewish influence) sold out the ordinary people and capitulated to the Allies.

    Anton Drexler, who created the party out of a union movement in Munich, had been a fervent nationalist and anti-Semite even before WW1. Hitler joined the party shortly after it was first formed. (He was injured in the War and had been hospitalized. That accounts for him not forming his own party.) Hitler, nonetheless, was one of the first 60 members of the party.

    D2: [i]”It was founded as the name implies… nationalist and socialist, a leftist socialist movement that incorporated nationalistic, often ethnic-purity beliefs.”[/i]

    It is true that almost all of the early members of the Nazi Party came from labor unions. These guys tended to be skilled or semi-skilled workers and some were failed intellectuals or, like Hitler, failed artisans. However, it’s inaccurate to say they were leftists–as that term is understood in Europe. They were from the start rightists. They did not believe in “fraternity” or “liberty” or “equality,” as the heirs of the French Revolution viewed politics. They believed in Superiority and Domination and War as Glory. Despite the fact that Hitler and Stalin were essentially following the same tactics of terror, the movements themselves were always quite different.

    D2: [i]”My recollection of Jewish leaders at its beginnings I cannot confirm without finding this resource that is floating somewhere around my home.”[/i]

    You are both wrong and ignorant.

  20. davisite2

    ” You are both wrong and ignorant.”

    Not surprisingly, as you wander off with your rantings about Hamas.. you missed the point of my original comment which was that populism is by definition, a grassroots movement to express the will of the people. This can include the most base of people’s motivations like racism and xenophobia but it is still populism. National Socialism in its beginnings was a populist movement that was supernationalist,xenophobic and socialist, calling for the creation of a classless society. it morphed successfully into a fascist authoritarian regime under Hitler in large part because of its alliance with the then major German corporate power structure.

  21. Rich Rifkin

    [i]”Okay you guys are both way off topic, bring it back to Davis and elections or that’s it for this discussion.”[/i]

    Davis elections are good.

    [i]”National Socialism in its beginnings was a populist movement that was supernationalist, xenophobic and socialist, calling for the creation of a classless society.”[/i]

    You have no idea what you are talking about. The Nazis not only never called for “a classless society,” their ideological roots were built on the notion of a “Superior Race” which should rule over or kill off lesser classes of people. As such, they wanted a class-based society–with Aryans as the ruling class.

    [i]”… it morphed successfully into a fascist authoritarian regime under Hitler in large part because of its alliance with the then major German corporate power structure.”[/i]

    Again, you have no idea what you are talking about. Naziism, like all fascist movements, was inherently a corporatist movement.

  22. davisite2

    “…its beginnings was a populist movement that was supernationalist,xenophobic and socialist, calling for the creation of a classless society.”

    …not really relevant to the original subject but the above does bring to mind interesting scholarly essays and speaker presentations that I have read and heard, by Israeli academic researchers and diaspora Jewish scholars, exploring the different world-view paths taken by Jewish-Americans ,largely shaped by US immigrant/political history of the late 19th and 20th century, and that of Israeli political Zionism, largely shaped by its German/Austrian Jewish intellectual founders who were then immersed in their country’s political thinking at the close of the 19th century.

  23. davisite2

    Joe Krovoza, when interviewed on DCTN on election night, said that his first priority would be working on PROCESS. He described his desire to have the citizen commissions more involved at an earlier stage and work with staff to shape issues before it comes to Council for discussion and decision. This sounds to me like an idea that could be described as “moving the ball” in a populist direction.

  24. davisite2

    “David, I concede that the term ‘populist’ is quite vague. However, all definitions include an appeal to popular prejudices…”

    One of the most well-known U.S. historical populist narratives involves the midwest farmers’ populist challenge to the freight rates that the monopoly railroads were charging around the beginning of the 20th century. I guess one could argue that the farmers were expressing a “popular prejudice” about the manner in which these railroad monopolies were screwing them over.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for