New Legislative Maps Threaten Davis and Yolo County Power

assemblymember-mariko-yamadaSince 1996, Davis has been represented in the Assembly by a Davis resident.  Starting with Helen Thomson, continuing with Lois Wolk and now Mariko Yamada, a Davis resident has held the Assembly seat in a district that included most of Yolo and Eastern Solano County.

While that was one of the few districts that really made demographical and geographical sense, that is now in doubt with the district maps that were released Friday.

As the AP reported, “The California Citizens Redistricting Commission  released preliminary maps, giving voters their first chance to see new boundaries not drawn by politicians interested in protecting their seats. Californians established the commission in 2008 in response to gerrymandering by lawmakers that preserved districts for incumbents and the parties.”

Yolo County would be divided under such a plan.  In fact, Woodland and Davis, just seven miles apart would be in separate Senate and Assembly Districts.  Davis would remain with West Sacramento, and parts of Sacramento, as well.

Yolo County would be split in thirds in the Senate.  Davis would be in a District that included West Sacramento and portions of Sacramento including Downtown, Natomas and Elk Grove.


Senator Lois Wolk from Davis would, in fact, be in the same Sacramento region Senate District as Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg. 

That is where this gets tricky.  The Bee argues that they would never have to battle each other for the seat.

Writes the Bee, “Wolk, who lives in Davis, was first elected in 2008 to an odd-numbered district. Her term ends in 2012. If the new draft district including Davis remained the same in the final maps and was given an odd number by the commission, Wolk said she would run again in 2012. Steinberg, a Sacramento resident elected to an even-numbered district, would not be eligible to run because was elected in 2010, giving him a seat until 2014. Members may serve only two terms in the Senate.”

They add, “If the district that included Davis received an even number, Steinberg would remain the representative through 2014 and Wolk would have the option to sit out for two years and then run for a second term in 2014. Either way, Wolk said she plans to run for a second term in whatever district includes Davis, and that Steinberg would support her.”

Senator Wolk issued a statement stating that she is determined to run again.

“Based on the commission’s draft maps released today, I am confident that I could serve well the people of the proposed district that includes my home, a number of communities I currently represent and a region I know very well,” she wrote.

Craig Renolds, a Davis resident who is Senator Wolk’s chief of staff, told the Bee that he thinks the maps may change significantly anyway “before they are finalized because the 14-member commission has not yet spent significant time reviewing the region in public meetings.”

On the other hand, her strongest move might be switching to the Congress.  Davis leaves Mike Thompson’s district, which really never made sense in the first place, joining Davis with the northern California coastline.


The new district looks a lot like the old Assembly District except it extends into Vallejo, Benicia, Pinole and Hercules in the East Bay.  That district would unite Davis and Woodland but it appears to exclude West Sacramento.

The most contentious will be the Assembly District which will put three incumbent Assemblymembers together. Roger Dickinson and Richard Pan would be in the same district as Mariko Yamada.


We have not spoken to Mariko Yamada, but Sacramento Bee reporter Phillip Reese believes that Assemblymember Yamada could move her home about a mile to the south into Solano County and end up in “a relatively safe Democratic district that has no incumbent and stretches across much of Solano County,” much of which she already represents.

The problem with that analysis is that it ignores Mariko Yamada’s roots in Davis that extend a couple of decades, and the fact that she has just one term left before she is termed out.  It might make more sense for her to simply run for the new Congressional District, much of which she already represents.

The bottom line is that this will hurt Yolo County’s influence in the legislature as it is split apart and placed into competition with the larger Sacramento, which figures to dominate the landscape.

One person told me that they are glad to see Ms. Yamada go, particularly given her strong ties with the firefighters, but if she does go, it is only one term early and it comes at great cost for the other eight years for which she would not be in the Assembly anymore.

Overall, Mr. Reese, from the Bee’s preliminary analysis, shows a large swing in the number of competitive seats.

Writes the Bee, “Bee database reporter Phillip Reese shows 51 would be considered safe for Democrats, 24 safe for Republicans and five in the swing category. That’s an increase in competitive seats from the current district make-up, which has 52 safe Democratic seats, 26 safe GOP seats and only two swing districts.”

They add, “Reese’s formula for determining safe and swing districts applies current voter registration figures and the outcome of the Jerry Brown-Meg Whitman  gubernatorial race last November. Districts that have a registration advantage for one party but chose a gubernatorial candidate of another party are considered swing. Of course there are other factors at play in particular districts that could increase the number of swing districts.”

In the Senate, his analysis “shows 27 would be considered safe or leaning for Democrats, 11 safe or leaning for Republicans and two in the swing category. That’s an increase in competitive seats from the current district make-up, which – on paper — has 27 safe or leaning Democratic seats, 12 safe or leaning GOP seats and only one swing district.”

But looking at those numbers closely, there is not a lot of difference, which is the point that we argued when this measure was on the ballot.  The reality is that, yes you can cut down on the ridiculously apportioned districts like the 1st Senate District, but the residential patterns of California and the overall maps of voting behavior belie a situation where you are going to create a lot of competitive districts.  It is just not going to happen.

All this creates is some new intrigue and some angst amongst the politicians and voters alike.

—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.

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  1. E Roberts Musser

    What I find the most frustrating about this whole process is having Yolo County essentially carved up and parceled out, so that Sacramento is far more represented than this county is. As a small rural county, we already are at a huge disadvantage in so many ways. This new redistricting plan looks like it will put us at an even greater disadvantage…

  2. David M. Greenwald

    Agreed completely. Yolo and Eastern Solano makes the most sense to me, they have been together in the Assembly since the 1970s I believe, no reason to split them up now. Hopefully that will be fixed.

  3. Phil Coleman

    The Redistricting Commission is charged with restructuring current election districts. Past redistricting was controlled by elected officials who, indisputably, had an inherent conflict of interest. The Commission was created to be a more impartial analyst and to diminish gerrymandering of districts for partisan political gain.

    Paragraph two of this column describes our present district as making “demographical and geographical sense,” which can be reasonably interpreted as endorsement of the current boundaries.

    The column continues with criticism of the proposed redistricting by this blue-ribbon panel. There would be no representative living in Davis as has been the case for the past 15 years.

    Pause. Is Davis entitled to a representative who is also a resident? Should this be a criterion for the Commission to consider for the community of Davis, and nobody else?

    The remainder of the column is devoted to discussion of the political ambitions of incumbent officials and how the redistricting measure may affect those ambitions. Power shifts may occur to the detriment of someone, and countermeasures are underway to thwart the proposed redistricting of Davis.

    Pause. The Commission was supposed to restructure election districts to avoid partisan political favor. So, how can we fault the restructuring of our district based on the sole premise that we might lose political power? If we argue this point, can others outside our district allege we had political power far beyond our “demographic and geographical” representation?

    Is there is not a political agenda being expressed here, could someone please clarify?

  4. J.R.

    I’m curious. There is an underlying assumption that Yolo County and Davis have benefited somehow from Yamada’s representation.

    I know from Rifkin’s writing that she is a shill for the unions. No help there.

    Can anyone give some examples of what she has done specifically for Davis or Yolo County?

  5. hpierce

    Sounds like some would have difficulty realizing that Davis is not the “center” (pun intended) of its Assembly district. 10 years as a ‘fifth wheel’ might be interesting (and, perhaps, humbling). There’s always 2021…

  6. medwoman


    I will give some examples of what I feel Mariko Yamada has done for Yolo County. But first, a little about my perspective.
    I sit on the Yolo County Maternal, Child,Adolescent Health Advisory Board and thus see the impacts of public decision making on county residents. Mariko Yamada has been very active in public initiatives affecting primarily the elderly in our county, but also at risk teens and women and children. For specifics see : AB 999 affecting long term care insurance, AB 899 Home Care Services, AB 784 Funding of Veteran
    Adult Day Health Care Centers, AB 533, Pass Through of Federal Funds, AB 143 Yolo County All Mail Ballot Election Pilot Program,
    AB 40 Suspected Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse Reporting, AB 866 Property Tax Relief for Yolo County, and closest to my heart as an obstetrician, AB 147 Teen Parent in Foster Care reporting.

  7. Rifkin

    In my view, the new maps are a big win for Davis. Not only will we be getting rid of Yamada, but it looks to me like we have a strong chance–once we are no longer in Mike Thompson’s district–to have a representative in Congress who lives in Davis. Dan Wolk?

    If you think having Mariko is so good, then defend her actions as a supervisor when she tried her best to urbanize county land just east of El Macero and the car dealerships. I recall a meeting where she and the developer marched in people in wheelchairs in the pretext of building some sort of medical research facility.

    If you think having Mariko in Sacramento is good, defend her authorship last year and support this year for the bill written by the fire unions to make it twice as expensive for cities and counties to declare municipal bankruptcy. Mariko’s funders, the firefighters, fear bankruptcy, because they won’t be able to corrupt the judges who will tear up their contracts and write ones which work for taxpayers. But for the heroic actions of Lois Wolk in the Senate–she stopped Mariko’s bill last year and as a result the firefighters took her off the local government committee of which she was the chair–that bill would have passed last session. Just last week Mariko voted yes on a similar bill, which now goes to the Senate.

    If anyone is in a great position to go to Congress now from Davis it is Lois. However, if she really prefers to stay in her job in the Senate, then maybe Dan Wolk will run for that job. Our new congressional district is mostly Yolo County and Solano County. In the Democratic primary, Davis will have a great amount of say as to who wins that office. With Dan Wolk’s current position on the Davis City Council and his work as a lawyer for Solano County, it’s hard to imagine someone better from Davis at this point for that job. The biggest hurdle is raising money. I would guess with the help of Lois and others in the local Democratic machine, he can do it.

    I understand in the long run not having a Davisite in the Assemby is not necessarily the best thing for our burg. However, if we end up with a Christopher Cabaldon in place of Mariko, that is a win-win.

  8. Rifkin

    Medwoman, that litany of bills authored or supported by Yamada are not specifically geared to help Davis. As a liberal, you have every right to favor that sort of agenda. But the question J.R. asked was specific to having someone in the Assembly who lives here.

    As the Bee suggested, if Mariko will move out of town to Dixon, or even closer, to Tremont Road, she likely can stay in the Assembly and advance your platform.

    I believe this building is available:


  9. hpierce

    I’m glad that Rifkin suggested the building rather than the “land”… even if you disagree with her positions, etc., I’ve always found her to be a wonderful person…

  10. medwoman


    J.R’.s question was “what has she done specifically for Davis or Yolo County ?”. I limited my answer to Yolo County since as i stated in my post, that is where i have direct knowledge. I am quite sure, that like all public figures, Ms. Yamada will have taken some positions of which I approve, and others of which I do not. It seemed very clear from J.R.’s post that he was in agreement with you with regard to her actions regarding the firefighters and was seeking information on what she might have achieved that was viewed as positive.

    Living in Davis, but sitting on a board that represents and serves the entire county has reinforced my view in agreement with a comment by
    Supervisor Rexroad at a recent BOS meeting that Davis seems to be doing quite well (at least in reference to a number of public health issues
    under consideration) and it is the rest of the county that is actually in need of more attention.

  11. wu ming

    if the districts stay as they are (and they probably won’t, this is a first draft), i would expect john garamendi to run for the yolo-solano-napa congressional district, not wolk. that would be a fascinating primary race, though, wouldn’t it.

    fat lot of good having stan forbes on the committee seemed to to, for yolo and davis.

  12. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Pause. The Commission was supposed to restructure election districts to avoid partisan political favor. So, how can we fault the restructuring of our district based on the sole premise that we might lose political power? If we argue this point, can others outside our district allege we had political power far beyond our “demographic and geographical” representation? Is there is not a political agenda being expressed here, could someone please clarify?[/quote]

    If the restructuring is done in such a way that Yolo gets completely carved up and lost, so that Sacramento County is in total ascendency, how is that fair for small rural counties? They will virtually have no say… that is my concern…

  13. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Davis no longer center of the universe? How can we envision such a future. It is the end of civilization as we know it.[/quote]


  14. wdf1

    davehart: [i]Davis no longer center of the universe? How can we envision such a future. It is the end of civilization as we know it.[/i]

    In a slight modification, I like to imagine Davis as the [b]navel[/b] of the universe.

  15. wdf1

    Meridian Pacific has the maps online: [url][/url]. Matt Rexroad is a founding partner of Meridian Pacific.

    [quote]Matt Rexroad, a Sacramento-based Republican consultant, cautioned that the maps are subject to change. But if the lines hold, he said, “There are three to five Republican members of Congress who don’t return.”

    “We will see more competitive races without a doubt,” Rexroad said. “Once these seats are a little bit more exposed to the waves that go across the country … you will start seeing some changes.”


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