Assembly Analysis: Wolk’s Race to Lose? Not So Fast

Wolk-Assembly-AnnounceThe previous conventional wisdom in the Assembly Race was it was Dan Wolk’s race to lose and that Bill Dodd was perhaps most likely to be his November opponent.  While that November match up may still hold, don’t assume it will be Dan Wolk finishing first in June.

Last weekend, Davis Enterprise columnist Bob Dunning said this about Dan Wolk, that “many are saying the race is Dandy Dan’s to lose, but it’s not quite that simple. Yes, he has youth, charm, charisma, brains, a beautiful family and a famous name on his side, but I’m not sure voters in Williams know who he is. The biggest hurdle for Dan is to convince voters outside his hometown that he’s not just a Davis guy who’s going to institute Davis policies on the state of California as a whole.”

Actually, he has a number of big hurdles in this race, including his relative lack of experience, the size of the district which extends outside of the circles where Dan Wolk and even Lois Wolk are known, and the fact that Davis has had a stranglehold on the Assembly since Helen Thomson was first elected to replace longtime Assemblymember Tom Hannigan in 1996.

But more than that, it is not something that Dan Wolk has done wrong, but that Bill Dodd has done right.

Money

First, let us examine the money.  While Dan Wolk had a modestly better showing from January to mid-March, he still trails his two Democratic contenders by a good margin.  Dan Wolk did raise just under $70,000 in that period, edging out Bill Dodd’s $58,000 and nearly tripling Joe Krovoza’s $24,500.

However, as of mid-March Bill Dodd had a massive $527,000 cash on hand, though a good deal of that is money that cannot be spent until July.  Joe Krovoza still had $144,000 while Dan Wolk was a distant third with a mere $83,560.

We have yet to see the media blitz and mail campaign barrage, but it is likely to come soon.  Recall in 2008, when it was Mariko Yamada against Christopher Cabaldon.  Everyone assumed that the West Sacramento mayor was the odds-on favorite.  He unleashed a barrage of mail ads that ended up backfiring and the Yamada campaign made use of counter-ads from unions, as well as huge numbers of their foot soldiers.

However, on money alone, Bill Dodd has a huge advantage over either opponent.

The one area where Joe Krovoza appears to be in the game is with money.  His campaign told the Vanguard that more than 650 unique donors have contributed more than $250,000 to the Krovoza campaign to date.

They also noted, at that time, they had well over $150,000 cash on hand.

Political observers across the campaign have told the Vanguard that they continue to be surprised that Dan Wolk does not have more money.  There seems to be an expectation that at some point there will be a surge, but to date that has not happened.

Endorsements and District Breakdown

We will look at the impact of endorsements in two separate ways.  First, as we have noted in the past, it is not completely clear how endorsements translate into votes.  The 2008 Assembly Race saw Christopher Cabaldon win hands down the endorsement battle, but that did not get him to victory.

While Joe Krovoza has won a few notable endorsements from environmental groups, this is a two-way battle.  In the eastern portion of the district, mostly in Yolo County, Dan Wolk has cleaned up the major endorsements.

However, in the western counties, Bill Dodd has won the bulk of the major endorsements, especially now with his chief Napa rival out of the race.

Outgoing incumbent Mariko Yamada had endorsed Matt Pope.  She did extensive work introducing him to the various communities, but that never translated to money or support.  Now with him gone, she has not announced a secondary candidate that she will support.

Our view in this area is that in terms of local endorsements, Dan Wolk’s advantage is in Yolo County while Bill Dodd has a slightly broader advantage in the western counties.  Dan Wolk’s team would argue that Bill Dodd has no endorsements in Yolo County whereas Dan Wolk has some endorsements in the west, but it seems Bill Dodd has a somewhat broader base with key endorsements in Sonoma, Napa, Solano and Lake Counties.

(CORRECTION: Mr. Dodd has been endorsed by Yolo County Supervisor Duane Chamberlin as well as Winters Councilmember Wade Cowan and former Mayor Michael Martin).

Democratic Party and Unions

Dan Wolk’s biggest advantage is with the traditional base of support.  Dan Wolk so thoroughly won the party endorsement battle for Democratic Party, that he was on the consent calendar, a relative surprise in a contested primary with two other Democrats in the race.

Dan Wolk also has won major endorsements from education, health care and labor groups.  The key question is whether those groups will come out with more than money in his support.

Dan Wolk has an interesting history.  First, his mother has never been a favorite of the big unions like SEIU (Service Employees International Union).  Second, while he worked hard to cozy up to the local employee groups in the past year, he cast a key deciding vote to cut $2.5 million from employee compensation in June of 2011 and was a large part of the votes to impose the last, best, and final offer against two bargaining units.

On the other hand, he opposed fire staffing reductions and switched his vote on the joint service agreement, with 10 officials in two separate letters lobbying the city against the move.  Nine of the ten signers of those letters are supporting Mr. Wolk.

More recently, Dan Wolk combatively took on the city manager on his fire staffing report update – a move that may have been a factor in key endorsements from the unions.

The key question here is whether endorsements here just mean checks from the union PACs or whether they mean labor and reinforcements.  We have yet to see any of this play out.

Republican Factor

Two Republicans entered the race late.  Both Dustin Call and Charlie Schaupp entered the race in March.  Mr. Shaupp is a veteran candidate, while Mr. Call is a student staffer.  Neither one figures to play a huge role in the race.

The campaigns we talked to felt that one would have had a huge impact on the race and could have helped Dan Wolk.  However, the money that Bill Dodd is getting is coming from traditional conservative big money sources.

Still Mr. Dodd mentioned to the Vanguard in January that many Democrats consider him not Democratic enough but Republicans view him as too Democratic.

Overall View

In the end, we think the money will win out here and, while Mr. Dodd will not get all of the Republican vote in the primary, he will get enough of the Republican vote across the district and enough total votes in the west that he will finish in the top two.

While we were never able to track down the poll, we heard that there was a poll out there, possibly sponsored by the Krovoza campaign, showing that Bill Dodd is in the driver’s seat.  The Wolk campaign contends that they have yet to poll the district at this time.

Bottom line, we believe that, unless something changes, the run-off will be between Bill Dodd and Dan Wolk, but that Bill Dodd is better positioned to finish first in June with his monetary advantage, ability to generate Republican votes, broader experience and broader overall support.

As a side note, there may be an ex-factor at play here with the desire to go away from Davis as the base of legislative power.

If you count the Republicans, four of the five candidates reside in Yolo County.  And the fact that Dan Wolk and Joe Krovoza are likely to at least split the city of Davis, and perhaps Yolo County portions that are in the district, may well play into that, as well.

It is foolish to write off Dan Wolk, but, for the first time, we do not see him as the favorite to win.  That could change and change rapidly, however.

—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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26 Comments

  1. Davis Progressive

    it amazes me that no one cares about the assembly race – even with what could be local intrigue in the dan v. joe battle.

    my take: the wolks fight dirty, i would never count them out.

    i haven’t seen anything from this campaign yet.

    dodd has more money than god.

    1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

      The Vanguard ran an article some time ago which I thought was a good example of dirty politics on behalf of the Dan Wolk campaign. It was an email from Will Arnold, who is running Wolk’s campaign, which attacked Bill Dodd. It charged Dodd with being a former Republican, which is true. But Will Arnold left out that he himself is a former Republican. Arnold also went after a contributor to the Dodd campaign, David Crane, because Mr. Crane, who is a lifelong Democrat and was a member of the CalSTRS board in 2005, pointed out that the CalSTRS fund was headed for trouble. That, according to Will Arnold and the California Teachers Association made Crane “anti-education” and “anti-union.” The corrupt Democrats in the legislature then made sure Mr. Crane would no longer serve on any boards, including the Regents of UC. (FWIW, Crane was of course 100% right. CalSTRS fund is now $73.7 billion underfunded. It’s debts continue to grow. They got worse by $2.7 billion in the last year.)

      1. Tia Will

        Rifs

        “But Will Arnold left out that he himself is a former Republican”

        Were you pointing this out as an example of hypocrisy or did you have a larger point to
        make ? I am having problems seeing the relevance since Dodd is the candidate and Will is not running for anything.

  2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    Your analysis of the Cabaldon-Yamada race misses the mark on one key point. You state that Cabaldon had the key endorsements. However, his endorsements were from individual elected office holders. Those endorsements in an Assembly race do not matter much. What Yamada had were the endorsements from the special interest groups which profit from the laws passed in our legislature. It was the non-cash contributions those groups gave Yamada which felled Cabaldon. Specifically, it was the phone banking of the CTA, which got out the Yamada vote and raised big negatives for Cabaldon (because they claimed he was anti-education).

    If you look at Bill Dodd’s endorsements, almost none of them come from the groups which profit from the bills passed by the state legislature. His endorsements are largely from individuals or elected officials in every county but Yolo County in AD 4. I agree with your contention–one I have made repeatedly–that Dodd stands to win first or second place in the primary because he has so much support in his section of the county, while Krovoza and Wolk are mostly just favorites here in Yolo County.

    What remains to be seen is how hard the legislative profiteers–the groups which corrupt our politics–will do in terms of getting out the vote for Dan Wolk and suppressing it for Dodd or Krovoza. Take a look at Wolk’s key supporters in this regard:

    California Association of Psychiatric Technicians
    California Chiropractic Association
    CalDental PAC (of the California Dental Association)
    California Federation of Teachers
    California Nurses Association

    California Optometric Association
    California School Employees Association (CSEA)
    California Teachers Association

    Davis Police Officers Association
    Faculty Association of California Community Colleges
    Service Employees International Union (SEIU) California
    Teamsters Joint Council 7
    United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Region 8
    University Council – American Federation of Teachers

    The organizations in bold type are large membership groups. It matters somewhat how much cash they raise for a Dan Wolk. It matters a lot more how much non-cash work they contribute to his election. As long as they think Wolk will finish in the top two, I suspect they will hold their fire in the primary. But come November, look for those corrupt special interests to do everything they can to elect Wolk, especially if he is up against Bill Dodd.

    1. David Greenwald

      I covered that point as well, though not the entire list. I separated the issue of individual officeholders from unions. The key question is whether those are monetary contributions or foot soldiers and independent expenditures.

      1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        I know you covered that. Where you were off-point was in your analysis of the endorsements for Cabaldon. Those were all from officeholders. But, as you know, that was a Democratic Party-only primary, and the CTA made its call for Yamada, and that was the difference in that race.

    1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

      Dodd is getting a lot of money from the Bay Area tech companies and the financiers (VCs) of those companies. I would guess that they think he will favor legislation which favors them.

      1. Tia Will

        So please clarify for me how it is corrupt for large numbers of workers to fund campaigns and make “in kind” contributions, but it is not corrupt for financiers of companies to do the same for a candidate “they think will favor legislation which favors them ?

    2. Mr. Toad

      Dodd is getting money from a guy on the Walmart board and David Crane’s anti-union friends. Wolk is getting money from me. The Walmart guy gave more than I did.

      1. Don Shor

        Actually, from Rich’s link it seems most of his money is coming from wineries and vineyards, Napa Valley tourism industry, and a couple of construction unions.

        1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

          Don, I think you are right. I had not really looked at the list. I had read previously about the contributions Dodd got from John Scully and Greg Penner and John Fisher and so on, all folks who are rich guys from Silicon Valley or the VC industry which funds tech companies. But, as you note, they are a small share of his larger list. Far more are wineries, vintners, etc.

          What I notice, though, is that a lot of these guys give a lot more than the $4,100 maximum. They give that, their spouse’s give that, each of their many kids give that, and likely other relatives give that. So you get a lot of last names over and over in those lists. And then, in Dodd’s case, many of his big contributors doubled up, giving for the primary and the general election already.

          1. Don Shor

            What the wine industry cares about is ag/pesticide regulations, tax breaks, and immigration reform (they’re for it). The nursery industry and the wine grape industry had a lot of overlapping issues when I was active on our state nursery association board. Biggest is funding for ag commissioners and inspection programs, and effective management of quarantines about movement of plant materials statewide.
            Silicon Valley folks also favor immigration reform, and probably have overlapping interest in some tax issues. I don’t see a lot of nefarious motives behind these contributions. I’d say wine country is certainly a good base to launch a political race. If money makes a difference, I think Dodd and Krovoza have much better odds than many locally are giving them.

      2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

        Toad will vote for whomever the CTA picks for him to vote. And that is fine. That is his own selfish interest. Most people, consciously or not, vote for their own personal interests. It’s just a shame that we have privately financed campaigns, and the result is that our democracy is thoroughly corrupt.

        It’s morally reprehensible, beyond the corruption, that groups like the CTA claim their real interest is in education qua education, and that those who hold different opinions on what makes for better schools–for example, charter schools or bonus pay for teachers who perform the best or firing incompetent teachers who have been on the job more than 2 years–are damned by the CTA and their shills as somehow being “anti-union” or “anti-education.”

        1. South of Davis

          Rich wrote:

          > It’s just a shame that we have privately financed campaigns,
          > and the result is that our democracy is thoroughly corrupt.

          I don’t see any way to make publicly financed campaigns work without a totalitarian regime that would squash all free speech and jail anyone that made an “unauthorized” blog post, had their kids paint an “unauthorized” lawn sign, or put an “unauthorized” sign on the wall of the break room of their hardware store…

          1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

            Having publicly financed campaigns would not mean private groups or individuals or media could not speak or otherwise engage in politics. It simply means private groups and individuals could not give money to candidates or raise money on behalf of candidates. Such giving would essentially be seen for what it is–bribery.

            There are some questions within a system of public financing that I don’t know the answer to. For example, how to deal with wealthy candidates who self-finance? I don’t think that could or should be prohibited in any way. However, if it creates an imbalance, where a publicly financed opponent cannot compete, that would be a serious problem. Another question is how to deal with non-serious candidates or others who may have serious intent, but there is no reason to think they could ever win. Should those folks get the same amount of public funds to spend as top-tier candidates? Maybe. But if that were done, and we did not raise the hurdle to declare one’s candidacy (now done by requiring a certain number of signatures and usually paying a small fee), you probably would see dozens of folks running for various offices because they just want access to “free money.”

            I think those problems can be handled with some thought. But, again, there would be some problems to address.

            ——————–

            I know that most conservatives (and perhaps most Americans) hate the idea of publicly funded campaigns. They think of it as a waste of their tax money.

            What I think they are not considering is that most of the money contributed (by industries, unions, professional groups, contractors, etc.) is given in order to get a much larger return on investment. In other words, our private campaign financing system of bribery inherently results in much larger, more wasteful government.

            We can clearly see that in California, where the unions which run our state purchased the pension systems and medical benefit plans which are bankrupting us, and which have created liabilities (like the $73.7 billion all of us now owe to CalSTRS) we may never be able to pay off. Would we have unions running our state if our elected officials were not beholden to them for campaign funds? I don’t think we would.

          2. Rich RifkinWDE 73

            Speaking of bribery in California: The Bee recently had a good investigative piece regarding how Motorola gives millions in campaign cash in order to sell its third-rate police and fire radio systems to almost every agency in our state at a huge mark-up price. If and when the systems break or never work, Motorola makes more loot repairing the garbage they sold for top dollars.

            The very reason that Motorola always wins these contracts is that politicians (and public safety officials) who are beholden to Motorola write their RFPs so that only a Motorola system can win the bid. The contracts in advance take out all possible competitors.

            The losers in this scam are not just the taxpayers who are paying twice what we should. But it is also the case, sometimes, that public safety is harmed due to the failure of Motorola’s crummy products. (You think Motorola makes good systems? Who was the last person you know who bought a Motorola cell-phone?)

            Here is the link to the Bee’s story:

            http://www.sacbee.com/2014/03/29/6267554/with-friends-in-government-motorola.html

          3. South of Davis

            Rich wrote;

            > The losers in this scam are not just the taxpayers
            > who are paying twice what we should. But it is also
            > the case, sometimes, that public safety is harmed
            > due to the failure of Motorola’s crummy products.

            This has been going on since WWII when politically connected defense contractors could get the Army or Navy to request a 18.5 oz hammer when only 18.0 and 19.0 oz hammers were made. Since only one company makes the “Mil Spec.” hammer guess who gets the contract to make the ($500 each) hammers?

            About 10 years ago my friend’s fire department had a $1 million + GPS navigation system put in all the trucks that never worked. When Garmin came out with their small (~$500 at the time) GPS units the firefighters just bought their own at Costco to use (while the district spent tens of thousands more trying to fix the system that never worked)…

            P.S. When the department finally gave up on the GPS money pit a few years back they just bought a bunch of even better newer Garmin GPS units for ~$200 each at Costco…

          4. Rich RifkinWDE 73

            “This has been going on since WWII when politically connected defense contractors …”

            I suspect it has been going on far longer than that. What likely changed from the onset of WW2 was a vast increase in procurement budgets compared to the pre-War era.

            However, if you read up on the corruption involved in what the War Department was buying in the Civil War, you will find the same sorts of things there. Our Senate back then was especially corrupt, due to campaign finance. Manufacturers would often purchase the votes of state legislators by making sure they were elected, and then that group chose our Senators who owed their offices to the companies which paid the bills. The government then bought the products those companies made.

            And then kind of thing happened as far back as 1789. It is the natural byproduct of private campaign finance.

            The great difference in the last 80 years is mostly that government itself has grown to be such a large percentage of our national economy, even if government procurement (outside defense) at the federal level is not such a great share. So there is simply a lot more money to be made, now, by investing in politics. And both sides are fully guilty of paying off these corrupt bribes when they are in power or in position to do so.

            In California, since we are a one-party state, where Republicans are glued to Fox News and Democrats run the Capitol, all of the important corruption goes on with Democrats. There simply is no payoff in bribing Republicans.

          5. South of Davis

            Rich wrote:

            > What I think they are not considering is that most of
            > the money contributed (by industries, unions, professional
            > groups, contractors, etc.) is given in order to get a much
            > larger return on investment.

            True and they would just run their own campaigns for people they like if we had public funding.

            I like my idea of just prohibiting an elected official from voting on any bill that covers the people that give them money (or contribute to a PAC that campaigns for them).

            If you are cell phone company and want to donate or campaign for someone you like you are free to donate or campaign as much as you want but if they win they won’t be able to vote on any union contracts that involve cell phones.

          6. Mark West

            Each candidate who qualifies for the ballot should be given a set amount of public funds to spend on the election. If any candidate wants to put their own money into the system, all the competing candidates get an equal amount of public funds to compensate. Everyone has the same bankroll to work with, and the same limitations, and the incentive for a wealthy candidate to ‘game the system’ is thwarted.

            This doesn’t impact the outside groups, but that can be dealt with by having mandatory disclosure of donors. It is the secrecy, along with the excess money, that fuels the current system.

  3. Mr. Toad

    Actually I’ve known Dan Wolk since he moved home after law school and will vote for him because I tend to agree with him more than disagree with him and find him to be a good guy. The fact that he wants to focus on education issues and has been endorsed by CTA is an added reason to vote for him and I hope everyone in education recognizes the support Dan has from the education community in the race.

  4. Mark West

    This has become a rather intriguing race, and I can’t say I disagree with David’s projections. I see it as a race between Wolk and Dodd, with Krovoza being somewhat of the wild card, due to the size of his current bankroll.

    I am expecting a 1/2 finish by Wolk and Dodd (not necessarily in that order), but Joe could make it interesting if he uses his money during the primary to attack Dan in the hopes of making it to the final two.

    Either way, the District is so diverse that in the end I expect Dodd to carry most of the republican vote, and Wolk the hard-core Democrats, with Dodd claiming the majority of the swing voters, and probably the election. Dodd v Krovoza might actually be a more entertaining general election as I would expect the results to be closer than the expected Dodd v Wolk fight.

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