Commentary: Too Davis Centric Are the Candidates For Assembly?


Jim Smith, editor of the Woodland Daily Democrat, makes an astute observation about the announcements from both Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza and Davis Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk of Davis.

He writes in a column on Wednesday, “It would serve candidates contemplating a run for higher office to step back and look at the bigger picture, instead of being so ‘Davis-centric.’ “

“Both Dan Wolk and Joe Krovoza, who serve on the Davis City Council, announced their intentions to seek the Assembly District 4 seat now held by Mariko Yamada. Both Wolk and Krovoza are Democrats, and are only the latest to throw their hats in the ring,” he writes, and then notes, “Here’s the interesting bit: Both also made their plans in Davis, ignoring the traditional announcement from the steps of the Yolo County Courthouse.”

“That was a big mistake politically,” he continues. “While Davis residents may think they are the center of the Northern California Liberal Universe, the hard fact is that in order to be elected, candidates must reach a broader mix of voters. That’s why those seeking public office usually make their announcements in Woodland, because it more accurately represents the region’s voters, who are slightly more conservative.”

As our previous analysis bears it, whoever wins is going to have to capture the critical vote outside of Davis and outside of Yolo County which only represents about 31% of the voters – and Davis is not even the single largest bloc of those voters.

How well do the voters in Napa or Sonoma know either candidate?

Mr. Smith adds, “Davis can easily skew an individual’s view of events and issues. Davis is why Yolo County ranks so high national (No. 24) on being one of the healthiest county’s for children. It’s also why among the four-county Sacramento region, it has seen a drop in gun sales, while other county’s have seen steep increases.”

“It’s easy to believe that because something works in Davis, it will work elsewhere,” he writes. “That perspective can lead to failure. And, for what it’s worth, no regional candidate seeking state office in the past 20 years who has not announced their intention in Woodland has won.”

That’s an interesting point and something he says that “Lake County Supervisor Anthony Farrington and Napa County Planning Commissioner Matt Pope should remember as well.”

I covered the announcements of both eventual winner Mariko Yamada and West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon back in the fledgling days of the Vanguard in early 2007.

Cabaldon Announcement

Mayor Cabaldon tried to seize on the transportation theme and reached out from West Sacramento to Davis by having his announcement at the Davis Train Station.

Then there’s Mariko Yamada’s announcement.

Yamada Announcement

I will never forget going to her Solano County announcement – it was early in the morning, bitterly cold, and there was no one there but a few press people.  The picture captures the mood there rather well.

Yamada Woodland Announcement

Later that same day, the candidate gathered on the steps of the courthouse, with her notable supporters behind her.

What can we learn from these pictures?  First, neither candidate had a large contingent of general members of the public.  What you saw in the picture was pretty much what was there.

Both Dan Wolk and Joe Krovoza will have relatively large throngs of people at their events.  But they will be Davis people, for the most part, with a few regional people thrown in, and it will mean relatively little.

My take, from all of this, is quite simple.  I don’t think it matters.

For much of the 2008 campaign, the conventional wisdom was that Christopher Cabaldon would be the next Assemblymember.

In fact, the bigger and more enduring photo-op might not have been his announcement but rather his April 2008 photo-op where he was in Suisun City with three predecessors who served in the California State Assembly–Tom Hannigan, Helen Thomson and Lois Wolk–each of whom had endorsed his candidacy.

But that photo was wiped out in a furious final two months of the campaign that saw a mail war the likes of which we may never see again.  When the dust settled, the bombardment might have backfired on Mr. Cabaldon’s candidacy.

Mariko Yamada received a massive influx of money and ground troops from unions that back her candidacy and probably single-handedly won it for her.

Bottom line, when people cast their votes in June, they less remembered the picture of Mariko Yamada alone in Fairfield or with her friends in Woodland from March of 2007.  Instead, they more likely remembered this picture:


The one of Christopher Cabaldon with his car booted in Sacramento because he failed to pay his parking tickets.

In case people forgot the incident, the unions would not let them.


But there is a lesson here that I think Jim Smith is absolutely right about: this campaign is going to be won and lost in areas that are not Davis, and both campaigns missed vital opportunities to be the first to reach out to voters in the other cities and counties.

That too, however, is fixable a year out from the primary.

—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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