In a Jolt to the Race, Davis Assemblymember Mariko Yamada Endorses Pope to Replace Her


While some apparently saw the number of appearances outgoing Assemblymember Mariko Yamada was making with Napa County Planning Commissioner Matt Pope as a sign, the move by Assemblymember Mariko Yamada to endorse Mr. Pope as her successor still seemed to catch many in the Davis community off guard.

“After meeting with each of the candidates running for my seat, there is only one who I believe has what it takes to fairly represent the expansive 4th Assembly District, and that candidate is Napa County Planning Commissioner Matt Pope,” Mariko Yamada said.

She would add, “I am proudly endorsing Matt because his background, energy, temperament and life experience have prepared him for the grueling race ahead and to lead courageously and with integrity once elected. He has served his country, he has served his community, and he now wants to serve you. His Democratic values are deeply-rooted and will guide him in the Assembly.”

Matt Pope said he is honored to be campaigning with Mariko Yamada over the next year.

“Assemblymember Yamada is a true champion of working families, seniors, environmental justice and the disadvantaged,” Mr. Pope said. “These are exactly my priorities and I look forward to campaigning with her and learning from her leadership in the Assembly over the past six years.”

Vanguard Analysis: Matt Pope Now Clearly a Contender

In sizing up the race for the fourth Assembly District, it is difficult to know how things are ultimately going to break down.  One had to figure that Dan Wolk, by way of his mother’s service in both houses of the state legislature, would be a formidable candidate.

Anthony Farrington is the only resident of Lake County in the race, while Napa County and Yolo County are the two largest populated centers in the district – but each of those have two candidates, which could presumably split the vote.

Bill Dodd is a wild card.  He is sitting on about $75,000 from his previous campaign war chest, but he’s a former Republican in a heavily-Democratic district.

Joe Krovoza landed squarely on the map of clear contenders last week when he stunned many by raising $118,000 in his first reporting period.  While money will not be decisive, clearly his ability to raise it makes him a viable contender.

The biggest question in this race is Matt Pope.  Unlike the others, Matt Pope has never been elected to public office.  He serves as a district representative for Senator Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa). In addition to serving as a Napa County Planning Commissioner, he is a former American Canyon Planning Commissioner and former president of the Napa County Democrats.

But he has now landed the endorsement of the two most prominent public officials in the district that are not related to a candidate in the race.  That Noreen Evans would endorse her own staffer is perhaps not a surprise, but that the sitting Assemblymember would make a call nearly a year out, for someone who does not live in her own county, is.

That she would announce this decision this early and go outside of Davis is a surprise to many.  Given that she is widely expected to compete for Senator Wolk’s vacated seat in 2016, it is surprising that she would enter the fray and enter it now.

As a political decision, the move is a risk for Ms. Yamada.  She risks upsetting her Davis base by going for a candidate outside of it.  And, while picking one Davis candidate over another was fraught with its own risk, the safest bet would have been to stay above the fray.

In a way this accomplishes that, but some observers believe that this came down to fairly personal calculations.  Past differences with the Wolk family and their lack of support for her candidacy may have precluded Dan Wolk from consideration.

Her comfort level with Joe Krovoza is unclear, but given her close ties to unions and, in particular, the firefighters and Bobby Weist, Mr. Krovoza was not a clear option for her.

Anthony Farrington is clearly more conservative than she, as is Bill Dodd, who actually endorsed John Munn in the last Assembly race.

That leaves Matt Pope.  When the Vanguard interviewed Matt Pope, he told us that he had worked in Silicon Valley in the field of private security.  It was there when he worked as a private consultant that he moved closer to government and politics.

He eventually became a labor organizer, organizing the security officers’ union.

The biggest question is now whether this move by Mariko Yamada signals that Matt Pope is the candidate that the unions will rally behind.

The Vanguard reached out to Assemblymember Yamada.  She indicated that she had a number of engagements yesterday but expected to be able to talk after session today.

Right now, the move by Assemblymember Yamada does not ensure that Matt Pope is the frontrunner – right now we still believe that to be Dan Wolk, but this race is going to get very interesting, particularly if this signals the unions backing Mr. Pope.

—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. Davis Progressive

    weird my comment got cut off. what i tried to post is that this definitely changes the dynamics of the race. it puts matt pope in play (and frankly i hadn’t taken him seriously before). but it also plays interesting here, because mariko has her own constituency in davis, and so now we may see a three way split in davis, which means it is even more important who captures the rest of the district.

  2. Brian Riley

    Mariko Yamada’s endorsement of Matt Pope seems vaguely reminiscent of TR entering the 1912 election, thus siphoning votes away from Taft and ensuring Wilson’s victory–except in this case it seems that Pope has a chance of winning.

  3. SouthofDavis

    Brian wrote:

    > Pope has a chance of winning.

    Anyone with a lot of union money to buy ads and smear the competition has a chance of winning. I don’t think Pope wants to go back to become a “rent a cop” (and SEIU “union organizer”) again so he will probably do whatever the unions want him to do..

  4. Anonymous Pundit

    Pope is still a long shot, no name identification, no track record, no electoral success. Yamada endorsed a Union friend, but there are no major Union issues in this campaign. Hence, money and worker bees will not likely be forthcoming.
    Dodd is the one to beat, and he won’t be beaten with innuendo about his having been a Republican or having endorsed a Republican. In retrospect, Munn was objectively a vastly superior choice to Yamada.

  5. Mr.Toad

    “In retrospect, Munn was objectively a vastly superior choice to Yamada.”

    Another anti-union, anti-tax, anti-water poster speaks up on the Vanguard. I just wonder are you anti-environmental too? When Munn was at the Resources Agency my save the redwoods friends fighting to protect the forests of Northern California from the depredations of Charles Hurwitz’s Maxxam Corp. thought Munn was a nightmare.

    Dodd may be able to triangulate his way into the Assembly under the new top two rules but make no mistake a history of supporting John Munn is a revealing look into the mindset of anyone seeking to represent this district. A district that has, although the lines have recently changed, has repeatedly rejected Munn’s desire to lead by wide margins.

  6. Mr.Toad

    One other point, because, although in my mind Dodd having endorsed Munn loses my vote, I don’t think we should beat up on people too much for the sins of others, Isn’t Munn a plaintiff in Harrington water lawsuit?

  7. David M. Greenwald

    He was also a Republican when he endorsed Munn, my question to you is shouldn’t you want to at least know why he switched from Republican to Democrat before deciding is any particular action has disqualified him in your mind?

  8. David M. Greenwald

    ” there are no major Union issues in this campaign”

    What were the obvious major issues six years ago? And yet, the unions were decisive in their support for Yamada.

  9. Don Shor

    Someone I know who met Mr. Pope says he describes himself as “the only true progressive in the race.” Evidently he’s going to try to run to the left of Dan Wolk and Joe Krovoza.

  10. Mr.Toad

    “He was also a Republican when he endorsed Munn, my question to you is shouldn’t you want to at least know why he switched from Republican to Democrat before deciding is any particular action has disqualified him in your mind?”

    I assume he did so for the same reason Arlen Specter switched because he could not win as a Republican. Do you know of any other reason?

  11. SouthofDavis

    Mr. Toad wrote:

    > I assume he did so for the same reason Arlen Specter
    > switched because he could not win as a Republican.
    > Do you know of any other reason?

    I have never heard of anyone switching parties for any other reason than they feel it will help them win an election (or re-election)…

    They always make up some other BS reason, but the voter registraition numbers always support the “want to win” reason.

  12. Davis Progressive

    ” Do you know of any other reason? “

    what if he no longer believes what the republican party believes? are you that cynical to think only winning matters in politics?

  13. Mr.Toad

    Arlen Specter was the person who came up with the single bullet theory for the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I’ve been cynical about politics ever since.

  14. Brian Riley

    Walter Cronkite did a special on CBS in the early 1990s where he showed that the single bullet theory was very feasible. I think Specter was an honorable guy. He was receptive to student protesters during the 2006 Unity for Gallaudet protest, so I have nothing but good things to say about him, based on what I know.

  15. eagle eye

    Some people are tired of the insider David Democrat clique looking after themselves and no one else.
    Mariko has integrity and a wider view than just helping herself and her friends. She appears to believe that Pope has similar values.

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