While Davis will clearly focus on the Mayor Joe Krovoza – Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk battle for the 4th Assembly District, the broader battle sees an interesting breakdown of the five candidates – all Democrats, two of whom are from Napa, two from Davis, and one from Lake County.
Thanks to data provided from Meridian Pacific, Supervisor Matt Rexroad’s consulting firm, we have a few observations. First, the seat is Democratic, but not overwhelmingly so. The registration is 45.8 percent Democratic, 26.1 percent Republican and 25.7 percent Independent.
The available data analyzes the 2010 turnout, which was generally more Republican. But, in California, recall that Democrats swept offices statewide. In the primary of 2010 (which may resemble the 2014 primary), 47 percent of voters in the 4th were Democrats, 34.5 percent Republican and 16.5 percent independent.
In general, it was 47.6 percent Democrat, 30.6 percent Republican and 19.7 percemt Independent. In 2008, Obama won this district 64.8 to 32.2 over McCain. Prop 8 failed 55-42. Governor Brown won handily, 57-36 over Meg Whitman.
Females out-register and turn out by six points greater than their male counterparts. And the district is 14.7 percent Latino in registration, but in the general of 2010, Latinos were only 10.5 percent of the electoral.
What do these data tell us? First, there are five male Democratic candidates in the race. If a female Democrat emerged who was a strong candidate, she might have the advantage. Second, given the top two primary system, a Republican in a field of six candidates could make the run off in November.
In terms of population, Napa and Yolo Counties are the two largest in the district, as those two counties remain most intact. In terms of registration numbers, Napa County voters represent 30 percent of the registered voters, Yolo County represents 33 percent, then Lake at 15 percent, Sonoma at 14 percent, Solano only 7 percent and Colusa just 1 percent.
Looking in terms of actual 2010 turnout, the numbers do not change that much. However, Napa County had 31 percent of the voters who turned out in the primary and in the general, while Yolo County had 29 percent of those who turned out in the primary and 30 percent in the general.
What is interesting is that the three largest counties have candidates. Yolo and Napa counties have two each, while Lake only has one. If we, for simplicity’s sake, assume a perfect split in both counties between the two candidates, it is not clear that there is an advantage.
However, the biggest remaining county is Sonoma County next to Napa County, and that might give the Napa candidates a slight advantage as Solano, next to Yolo County, is only about 7 percent of the district voters.
The biggest cities in the district are in the following order: Napa, Davis, Woodland, Rohnert Park and then Dixon. Each of the major counties has a somewhat sizable rural population, the largest of which is Lake County with 25,000 rural voters. Nearly one-third of the voters in the Fourth AD are rural voters.
What does all of this mean?
For 18 years, Davis has been represented by a female Assemblymember from the city of Davis. First Helen Thomson, then Lois Wolk and now Mariko Yamada. With no women in the race, and no obvious candidates at the moment, that seems likely to change.
Meanwhile, a few days ago, the Napa Valley Register analyzed the race and noted that the last time a resident of Napa County had reached the state legislature was 1980.
They write, “As the Bay Area’s least populous county, Napa was too small to wield much clout in its old Assembly districts, which were dominated by Santa Rosa’s population base and political system.”
“That could change next year,” they note. “Thanks to the redistricting two years ago, Napa County has a new district that no longer includes Santa Rosa, and thus the best chance in decades to take an Assembly seat.”
They quote Sonoma State Political Science Professor David McCuan who said, “Napa becomes an important battleground… In the past, it’s been more of a playground. It just hasn’t been as pivotal.”
The article also quotes AG Block, associate director of the University of California Center Sacramento. He argues that the old system was designed to preserve the political status quo, but that changed in 2008 when voters created the new independent commission.
That commission redrew the boundaries, which kept the entirety of Napa County intact. Yolo County, however, was split up, with West Sacramento joining a district that encompasses Sacramento to the east.
AG Block argued that changing the center of input was critical to the changes. “You didn’t have most of the input coming from inside the capitol. The commission didn’t care about that. It wasn’t concerned about preserving the status quo. The districts that emerged were very different.”
The result is a change to Yolo County, “which has been accustomed to sending its native sons and daughters to the Legislature’s chambers,” with Mariko Yamada and Lois Wolk (and, before her, Helen Thomson), all former Yolo County supervisors.
“Yolo County had always pretty much had its own way,” Mr. Block said. “They’ve been very fortunate, over the past 10 years, to elect local people to the Legislature. Suddenly that’s no longer the case.”
Mark Pruner, who chairs the Yolo County Republican Party Central Committee, said that there will be a Republican candidate in the race, but did not tell the Napa paper as to who would run.
“It’s really up to the candidates themselves to make those announcements,” Mr. Pruner said. “There will be folks coming out for sure – not to worry.”
“For quite a long time the city of Davis produced the member of the Assembly,” Mr. Pruner told the paper. “Davis has really dominated historically.”
But any Republican is not going to be helpful. And neither will more than one. The only way that the Republicans can get a seat at the table in November 2014 is if they have one major Republican candidate who is formidable enough to unite most of the Republicans in a district that is still largely Democratic.
Another wild card here is the candidacy of Napa County Supervisor Bill Dodd, now registered a Democrat – but that is a very recent conversion.
Matt Pope told the Napa paper, “The word Republican still seems to be following him around… Getting that Democratic endorsement might be difficult.”
But, in an open primary, that might not be critical.
He has not formally announced, and will do so by July 1. He told the Napa paper he’s “fiscally conservative but socially liberal, but expects that issue to be brought up if he does run.”
“There’s no way that anybody is going to give me a free pass on that issue,” Mr. Dodd said. “Voters will have ample time to reflect on that issue. I have a lot of experience in local nonpartisan races. It’s high time that we had somebody from Napa represent us in Sacramento.”
On the other hand, in a race with no Republicans thus far, that may end up an advantage.
The idea that 30% of the voters might not be able to vote for their own party’s nomination in November and either pick between which Democrat they find least offensive or sit out, does not sit well with at least one of the candidates.
“I’m still a little wary of this new top two primary system that we have,” Matt Pope, one of Napa County’s two candidates told the Vanguard in an interview. “I would think if I was a Republican, I would want to feel in the general election that I would want a Republican to vote for. Not necessarily this new primary system where if I’m in a Democratic majority district, I only have two Democrats to vote for.”
“It seems to me that the new system seems to have almost a sort of anti-democratic – small d – democratic – process effect of limiting people’s choices after the primary,” he said.
He’s not alone. The primary system, devised by former Republican State Senator Abel Maldonado as a compromise on the budget in 2009, was supposed to bring out more moderate candidates.
Third party candidates lament the fact that fewer Californians voted and that “their choice at the ballot box has been drastically curtailed since the imposition of Proposition 14 – the so-called ‘Top Two’ primary, according to an analysis just released by the Peace and Freedom Party, Green Party and Libertarian Party of California.”
In a joint statement, “The political parties noted that despite the claim that a so-called ‘open’ primary would generate greater voter interest, only 31 percent of registered voters turned out in the June 2012 primary election in California.”
The joint statement, that crossed ideological lines, indicated: “Top Two makes it much harder and more expensive for candidates of small parties to qualify for the primary election ballot, thereby reducing their number to a record low.”
“In 2012, the number candidates from the smaller parties running for Congress declined 68% from 2008 (the last presidential year before Top Two) and for state legislature the number declined 72%, resulting in the fewest number of candidates on the primary election ballot from any alternative party since 1966, when only the established Democratic and Republican parties were on the ballot,” they write.
Why, they ask. “Under Top Two, the number of signatures in lieu of filing fees for candidates of the smaller alternative parties have increased drastically (for statewide office, from 150 to 10,000.) Smaller parties do not have the infrastructure to gather large numbers of signatures or pay the filing fees for multiple offices,” they write. “As a result, the candidates either have to pay expensive filing fees or not run at all, where previously they could gather enough signatures to avoid paying any filing fee.”
One thing that the analysis up to this point cannot address is how much of an advantage does Dan Wolk have, due to the fact that his mother is the State Senator for a good portion of this district? Does that end up mattering to voters in the western portion of the district, and how does the fact that the other Senator in the district, Noreen Evans, is supporting Matt Pope play into this?
—David M. Greenwald reporting