Sunday Commentary: Will Big Guns Translate into Votes for Wolk?

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In May, the Vanguard wrote a story saying “Most Elected Officials Avoiding the Krovoza-Wolk Fray For Now.”  At the time we wrote that “within the city of Davis, most elected officials have decided to avoid the fray.  The Vanguard was able to talk to nearly all of the elected officials and could identify just three committed to Dan Wolk.  However, one is his mother, Senator Lois Wolk, and a second is Cass Sylvia, the Public Guardian, married to Craig Reynolds, who is Lois Wolk’s chief of staff and Dan Wolk’s likely campaign consultant.”

That has changed and changed quickly.  We reported in May that Mariko Yamada, whose seat the two are seeking and a Davis resident, told the Vanguard in a statement that it was widely known that Yolo County Supervisor Jim Provenza was Yamada’s choice to succeed her.  With her candidate out, she indicated the race to be “wide open” and that she would not be making any early endorsements.

She has since come out in favor of Matt Pope.

County Supervisor Jim Provenza, widely believed to be the front-runner for the seat, declined to run, which opened the door to a slew of other strong contenders.  He told the Vanguard, “Both Dan and Joe are clearly qualified for the position and would be excellent Assembly members. As a person who works with the Legislature every day, I can honestly say that either Joe or Dan, if elected, would immediately enter the top tier of the Legislature in terms of intelligence, know-how, common sense and a commitment to good public policy in California.”

He said, “I am not making an endorsement at this time.”

That was in May.  In September, he sang a different tune.

“I have worked closely with Dan Wolk, and I know he has the experience and the skills to bring people together to represent us effectively in the State Assembly,” said Supervisor Provenza. “Dan is firmly committed to restoring our public education system and making our community and state a better place for our children and grandchildren.”

He was soon joined by West Sacramento Supervisor Mike McGowan.  And this week by Don Saylor.

“I believe that Dan Wolk is well prepared to represent the diverse perspectives of the 4th District and is the right fit for us.  I admire Dan’s lifelong commitment to public service and his approach to governance.  He has deep professional and elected office experience at both the county and city levels in issues that are critical to the residents of the 4th Assembly District,” Supervisor Don Saylor said in his letter.

Supervisor Saylor continued, “Dan has demonstrated his commitment to children’s services, public health, responsible budgeting, fair treatment of employees, public safety, and fair housing. His steadfastness on issues that matter means a lot to me and I think it should to the voters in the 4th District.”

Dan Wolk now has the support of both of Davis’ county supervisors and all three of the Democratic supervisors in Yolo County.

Game over?  While there is little doubt that Dan Wolk has strengthened his position in Yolo County, for obvious reasons it is not clear that having Yolo County Supervisors’ support will help in Napa or Lake Counties (the two largest population bases in the district other than Yolo County).

Without accurate public polling (that may not matter at this point anyway), we look to things like money raised and endorsements as indicators.

But, as often as not, that may be difficult to gauge.

A big question is how the endorsement of Dan Wolk by Don Saylor will play in Davis.  Mr. Saylor has strong support, but also is a polarizing figure.  He angered many when he seemed to put his own personal aspirations ahead of the good of the community by running for supervisor and then forcing the council to appoint his replacement just a few months after taking over as mayor.

Ironically, that led to Dan Wolk’s appointment.  Mr. Saylor’s strong support for development has angered some and his support for unsustainable budgets and fire contracts have led to concern about his tenure in Davis.

At the end of the day, perhaps the Wolk campaign feels that whoever is going to be a strong opponent of Don Saylor is probably not someone who would vote for Dan Wolk to begin with.

Strong slates of supporters have not always translated as well electorally.

In 2008, it was West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon that amassed the huge names in the race.

The Vanguard in April of 2008 reported on a campaign event in Suisun City, where West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon stood with his three predecessors who served in the California State Assembly–Tom Hannigan, Helen Thomson and Lois Wolk–each who then endorsed his candidacy for the position they served collectively over the last 30 years since 1978, when Tom Hannigan served the first of 9 terms in the California legislature.

Perhaps the biggest one then was the outgoing Assemblymember Lois Wolk, who defeated Mr. Cabaldon in 2002.  She said, “I was one of those who did not endorse Christopher Cabaldon in 2002.”  She continued:  “The reason I am here today is to announce my strong and enthusiastic support for Christopher Cabaldon.”

Dan Wolk is starting to amass some of the same names as Mr. Cabaldon did.  However, the script is a bit different.  Jim Provenza in 2008 was a huge supporter of Mariko Yamada.  Today he is supporting Dan Wolk, while Assemblymember Yamada is backing Matt Pope.

Why did Mr. Cabaldon lose in 2008?  The race turned nasty, he and some independent expenditure committees sent out very nasty attack ads, but the unions coalesced behind Mariko Yamada and provided the energy and money to overcome the political apparatus and endorsements by key politicos.

Different forces are at work this time.  In 2008, the unions were angry at Mayor Cabaldon for his involvement with Ed Fund, which the teachers saw as a threat.  Others were angry at his support for WalMart.

Dan Wolk has an interesting record on union issues.  He angered many by casting the deciding vote on the 2011 budget and has been consistent in his support for austerity in the city of Davis.  However, at the same time, he and Lucas Frerichs were the dissenting votes on the fire staffing.

However, Matt Pope, with his background in labor and his support from Mariko Yamada, may be better poised to take advantage of labor support.

Whatever happens, there will not be a similar dynamic to 2008, with one candidate the unions love and the other that they want to take out.  They may have support for Matt Pope, some ambiguity with Dan Wolk, and general dislike for Mayor Joe Krovoza.

And, of course, standing outside of the fray is former Republican Bill Dodd.

In the end, this is a fascinating race and, while Dan Wolk may be the early favorite, it has a long way to go.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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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42 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: Will Big Guns Translate into Votes for Wolk?”

  1. Growth Izzue

    I don’t think Sarah Palin’s target campaign was meant to be strong rhetoric either but that didn’t stop you from saying things like:

    “This is not a war, this is a political debate.”

    “We couch our political differences into images of war…”

  2. davisite2

    “As a person who works with the Legislature every day, I can honestly say
    that either Joe or Dan, if elected, would immediately enter the top tier..”

    “That was in May. In September, he sang a different tune.”

    No mystery here. Supervisor Provenza has obviously come to the conclusion that his political future would be enhanced if he went along with the choice of the Yolo Democrat political machine and not incur the wrath of Senator Wolk… an understandable but still disappointing decision by now-career politician Provenza.

  3. Davis Progressive

    … i think saylor hurts wolk on the margins, but the biggest impact is not much, most people will make up their own minds and often the people with the most endorsements lose.

  4. Davis Progressive

    “No mystery here. Supervisor Provenza has obviously come to the conclusion that his political future would be enhanced if he went along with the choice of the Yolo Democrat political machine and not incur the wrath of Senator Wolk… an understandable but still disappointing decision by now-career politician Provenza.”

    i think it’s more than that. mariko made a career of going against wolk and it hasn’t hurt her. read the provenza firefighter letter – that’s really what this was about.

  5. Davis Progressive

    “Well, I just think one should practice what they preach. “

    except that you’re ignoring the tremendous difference of context. palin was using battle words to delineated political enemies she wanted to target. david is using a big gun analogy as a metaphor for political supporters who are high profile. i don’t see any parallel.

  6. Growth Izzue

    Palin was just signalling districts that were targets for GOP takeovers. But yet David chose to make a point that her rhetoric was over the top. To some the words “big guns” might be condsidered a little strong.
    Like I said, but I see it got deleted, one should practice what they preach.

  7. Davis Progressive

    you’re still missing that in one case you are talking about targets for battle and in this case it’s a metaphor for supporters. HUGE DIFFERENCE. and you don’t get it, which suggests you didn’t get the problem with palin’s rhetoric in the first place.

  8. Growth Izzue

    [quote]which suggests you didn’t get the problem with palin’s rhetoric in the first place. [/quote]

    Because there was no problem with Palin’s rhetoric in the first place just as there’s no problem with David’s rhetoric of “big guns”. It is you my friend that doesn’t get it.

  9. davisite2

    “…. that’s really what this was about.”

    The Provenza email reads like something that Don Saylor would support although Provenza’s email is more convoluted and circumspect in his attempt to retain his populist image. IMO, it confirms my opinion that Provenza would like to shed his outsider strongly left progressive image for one that would be more acceptable to the Yolo Democratic Establishment political machine. His public support for Dan Wolk for Assembly is also somewhat circumspect and doesn’t necessary contradict his former statement that both Davis candidates would be good choices; he describes what he believes Dan would bring to the Assembly. Perhaps somewhere else, he just flat-out endorses Dan for the Assembly over Krovoza.

  10. Growth Izzue

    [quote]fine don, but the effect of that is that he can make accusations that cannot be addressed. [/quote]

    No accusations, I was just showing the hypocrisy.

  11. Good Government

    “Perhaps somewhere else, he just flat-out endorses Dan for the Assembly over Krovoza.”

    Provenza endorsed Dan Wolk, not Krovoza. He doesn’t need to say something negative about Krovoza for the endorsement to be real.

  12. Good Government

    “While there is little doubt that Dan Wolk has strengthened his position in Yolo County, for obvious reasons it is not clear that having Yolo County Supervisors’ support will help in Napa or Lake Counties”

    Very true. But Dan also has endorsements from Napa and Lake. Krovoza has surely met with those same folks and they chose to endorse Dan. Lois Wolk doesn’t even represent Lake County. And any Napa endorser has two home-grown candidates to choose from. Yet they endorse Dan as well.

    Maybe, just maybe, and I know this is Vanguard blasphemy, Joe Krovoza just isn’t as cool as his Vanguard cheerleaders would have you believe. Leaders around the district seem to think that.

  13. Growth Izzue

    [quote]Maybe, just maybe, and I know this is Vanguard blasphemy, Joe Krovoza just isn’t as cool as his Vanguard cheerleaders would have you believe. Leaders around the district seem to think that. [/quote]

    Maybe the leaders around the district don’t know the two of them as well as us Davisites do.

  14. Good Government

    So endorsements outside Davis don’t count because they don’t know Krovoza well enough? And local endorsements are suspect because they just want to please Lois Wolk? Sounds like a pretty solid set of excuses to use if your candidate can’t get any endorsements.

  15. Good Government

    The Yolo Supervisors and Davis School Board members know both candidates quite well. All endorse Dan.

    I’ll be interested to see what, if any, move the City Council members make in this race. Now that would be VERY telling.

  16. medwoman

    Good Government


    I was referring to comments on previous threads that we’re fawning over Krovoza.”

    So if I am reading your position correctly it is ” fawning” if someone makes a statement in favor of Krovoza, but a well reasoned endorsement if they make a statement supporting your favored candidate ?

  17. Good Government

    @medwoman – now we’re just talking semantics.

    The point is that Dan Wolk is leading the AD4 endorsement race by a mile, with Krovoza in dead last with a whopping one endorsement. People here are pointing to a lot of reasons why that is the case. I’m just suggesting it might be the candidate himself that is the reason.

  18. medwoman

    Good Government

    [quote]now we’re just talking semantics. [/quote]

    Fair enough. I agree with you that the issue here should be the candidates, their positions, and how likely they are to be effective once elected. What the issue should not be is a tally of supporters any more than it should have been a tally of how many letters for or against any given issue without more exploration of the contributing factors.

    And let’s not pretend that “semantics” has no role in forming opinion and building consensus.

  19. Good Government

    @medwoman – I agree with all of what you said. I just find it odd that Krovoza can’t seem to get any endorsements at all (save from one Winters City Council member). That is beyond just a “tally”. It should be a concern.

  20. Growth Izzue

    Well for me personally I’m going to vote for Krovoza because I feel he always votes for what he feels is best for Davis (even though I don’t always agree with him) where I feel Dan Wolk often votes for what’s best for him politically and not necassarily in the best interests of Davis.
    To me Krovoza comes across as a more honest guy.

  21. Mr.Toad

    “I feel Dan Wolk often votes for what’s best for him politically and not necassarily in the best interests of Davis.
    To me Krovoza comes across as a more honest guy.”

    Did you miss the vote on Fluoride?

  22. Good Government

    From the Vanguard article after the fluoride vote:

    Dan Wolk:

    “I think it’s fitting that we’re doing this on the day that the Affordable Care Act is under threat in Washington,” Mayor Pro Tem Wolk started. He continued, “That is an example of a politically difficult decision and that involves a governmental mandate that requires individuals to buy insurance. People have been vociferously decrying that as taking away their freedoms – but it was the right decision.”

    “It was a politically difficult decision, but it was the right one,” he said. “Just as I think fluoride is the right decision for a number of the reasons that were raised tonight. I absolutely stand with the public health community on this issue.” He would add, “I stand with the folks who were actually providing direct services to low income children. I stand with public health officers past and present.”

    “I really do believe… that we have an obligation as policy makers to those children,” the Mayor Pro Tem stated. “I would really urge my colleagues to support our children’s dental health.”

    Joe Krovoza:

    Like his colleagues, the mayor was concerned about the surface water project and Measure I.

    “This project was approved 54-46,” he said and stated, “There is no question in my mind that if we had let the public know that fluoride would be put in the water, the project would not pass and the great good that’s being done for this community by moving forward with this water project would not be happening.”

    Now…who is being “political” with their vote?

  23. Barbara King

    Joe Krovoza also said, ““When you’re regulating in the area of what people are going to put in their body, I think the bar of regulation becomes extremely high.”. The water project was clearly not his only consideration; the right to determine what one ingests counts for him, too. And I, for one, will remember that during the next elections, no matter who endorses whom.

  24. Good Government

    I think this is why I used the word “fawning” earlier. Krovoza is never political except when he is, and when he is at least he’s honest about it so it’s all good. Dan is always political even when he’s supported something publicly for years, and even then he’s probably got some ulterior motive.

  25. Mr.Toad

    All this finger pointing between Wolk and Krovoza is a circular firing squad. Both of these guys are going to make principled and political decisions in their careers. If either of them makes it to Sacramento they will mostly vote with the Democratic Caucus. Both will be better than Ex-Republican turned Democrat Bill Dodd who endorsed John Munn last year.

    I think Dan has the best chance of winning but if it comes down to Joe or Bill Dodd in the general I’d support Joe just as I hope Joe’s supporters will vote for Dan in a runoff against Bill Dodd. Anyone who makes any single vote a litmus test is missing the big picture. Remember in politics you don’t get everything you want and either Dan or joe will be better than Bill Dodd.

  26. medwoman

    “Remember in politics you don’t get everything you want and either Dan or joe will be better than Bill Dodd.”

    At last. A point of complete agreement.

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