My View II: Looking Back at the Assembly Race

Outgoing Mayor Joe Krovoza served as Mayor from January 2011 until June 2014
Outgoing Mayor Joe Krovoza served as mayor from January 2011 until June 2014

Much has been made about the Dan Wolk and Joe Krovoza competition, which some claim split critical votes and prevented Yolo County and more liberal voters in the eastern portion of the district from having a candidate in the runoff.

There have also been some disparaging remarks made toward Bill Dodd. I want to address all of this in this column.

First, Dan Wolk is about to become Mayor of Davis and he can now devote his full attention to the position. For all of those complaining about the split between Joe Krovoza and Dan Wolk costing Davis a seat in the Assembly, maybe this is for the best.

Had Dan Wolk faced off against Bill Dodd in November (the most likely alternative scenario), he would have engaged in four months of campaigning, and campaigning hard. Most likely, it would have been tough to defeat Bill Dodd, given that the 26% of the district that is Republican would have lined up behind Bill Dodd and that would have meant that Mr. Dodd would only need another third of the remaining vote to win.

But had Dan Wolk overcome those odds, we would have had him resign in December, and, much as Dan Wolk was appointed, Dan Wolk’s successor would have been appointed.

Dan Wolk is one of five on the council rather than one of 80, and his impact over our lives is far greater now than it would have been. Given the multitude of challenges – budget, water, parcel tax, and other challenges –  we face, Davis is probably better off with a full time and engaged mayor rather than a campaigning mayor and disjointed appointment process.

For as much as people criticized Don Saylor for not resigning and allowing his successor to be elected, Don Saylor had already won his seat in June 2010, and he didn’t have to spend July through January campaigning.

If Dan Wolk is our mayor, we need him strong and engaged. Dan Wolk’s first year on the council, he really was. He cast a very tough vote in June 2011, staring down a room full of angry employees. That the vote ended up not mattering much did not change the reality on the ground the day he cast it.

He was instrumental in pulling back on water. Mayor Joe Krovoza now recognizes he pushed too hard on water in the Fall of 2011, he understands that, while he was engaged in the process, the public was not there yet. Dan Wolk and Rochelle Swanson helped ease the way for a cleaner process by pulling back in December what was done in September 2011.

Where Dan Wolk went astray, I think, was when he decided to run for Assembly and he cozied up to the public employee unions. He backtracked on fire and tried to win the endorsements of the unions.

It made for not only bad policy, but questionable politics. We estimate that between the IEs supporting Dan Wolk and opposing Bill Dodd, and about $120,000 in direct contributions, Dan Wolk got about $800,000 from the unions, but that was opposed by about $800,000 in the same way by more right wing groups for Bill Dodd.

Charlie Schaupp made an interesting comment yesterday on the Vanguard, “If you want to blame someone for Wolk’s loss, don’t look at Joe, rather look towards those PACs and IEs that threw their weight behind Dodd. Even ‘everyone’s favorite supervisor’ -Matt Rexroad… who happens to be part owner of a conservative GOP leaning consultant firm, threw his support to Dodd 30 days before the election. And Matt messaged me it was going to support Dodd to keep Wolk out of the Assembly. Matt also told me about the Pro Dodd/Anti Wolk IE mailings that were going out in the mail that week. In other words.”

He added that there “was some Monkey Business going on in this election…”

While the unions came in with boatloads of money, one thing they didn’t do that they did for Mariko Yamada six years ago was bring in the ground troops, and that is probably a key difference between winning and losing.

Moreover, the fact is that the unions and the opposing forces mostly offset. The unions coming in so hard for Dan Wolk perhaps pushed the hand of the opposing forces.

And then there is the fact that the two lines of attack didn’t make a lot of sense. Bill Dodd essentially was blamed for a tax increase and pay increase he didn’t vote on and faulty votes that were selected by CalTrans rather than the committee he headed.

There is little doubt that the negative campaign suppressed Bill Dodd’s vote, but it’s not clear that Dan Wolk was the ultimate benefactor.

It’s easy to cherry pick the results now and blame Joe Krovoza, but remember that at the beginning of the campaign, Anthony Farrington from Lake County and Matt Pope from Napa were in the race. Neither ran strongly, but, had they stayed in, they would have greatly changed the dynamics, particularly in Napa and Lake County.

The Wolk supporters are somewhat dismissive of the fact that Joe Krovoza outpolled Dan Wolk in their home town. They attribute it to the focus of the Krovoza campaign, but there are two factors to consider.

First, Joe Krovoza prevailed in part because of his strong fiscal policies on the city council. Second, people forget after Dan Wolk’s great showing in the city council race in 2012 that Joe Krovoza did essentially the same thing two years earlier as a candidate who had very little name recognition to start with.

Finally, people are worried about Bill Dodd as a sort of closet Republican. I sat down and talked with him back in January. He talked about why he switched parties.

“During my last 13 years on the board, one can clearly see from my votes where my values (lie),” Mr. Dodd explained.  “Essentially, issues like immigration reform, coming from Napa County, agricultural area that it is, I’ve seen first-hand the treatment of our Latino farmworkers in many regards – and that needs to change.”

“I’ve supported women’s rights, particularly the right to choose.  I have consistently supported marriage equality and equality for everybody.  I’m also concerned about the shrinking middle class,” he continued.  “It’s these kind of values that absolutely make me a Democrat and why I switched.”

Mr. Dodd describes himself as a centrist at that point and added, “I was a centrist in my previous party. I am clearly a centrist now. Socially moderate to liberal and what I call, fiscally responsible.”

He also said he supports current global warming legislative efforts.

He explained, “I think that the framework with AB 32 and SB 375, has really set the tone.  I know that our governments are doing more and more to adhere to the goals of the State legislature.”

“The State legislature has done it with emission regulations,” he added.  He explained that in Napa County they are trying to shift more to green power, something that Davis has been doing for some time.  “We want to see jobs created from the green industry, primarily in the solar (field).”

We also talked about creating stable sources of funding for education.

Bill Dodd argued that this goes back to the boom and bust cycle of the economy in California.  “We have a formula right now for education that when we’re able to fully fund it, like this year where education is going to get a lot more money, it works.  Obviously those years where we don’t have it, it doesn’t work.”

For those worry that we may have elected a Republican to a Democratic district, I think Bill Dodd is going to be a moderate Democrat, not a Republican in the legislature. And if he votes as a Republican in this district, he will find himself with a well-financed more liberal challenger in two years.

—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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4 Comments

  1. Rich RifkinWDE 73

    DG: “Bill Dodd essentially was blamed for a tax increase and pay increase he didn’t vote on and faulty votes that were selected by CalTrans rather than the committee he headed.”

    Faulty votes? Or faulty bolts? Or faulty wolks?

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