The 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.
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.
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.
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