Vanguard Analysis: Why Did Ortiz Fall Badly in Davis?

Jesse OrtizAt the close of polls last week, Jesse Ortiz held a 723 vote lead over Sam Neustadt, which represented a 51.6 to 48.4 advantage. However, drilling down into the numbers, we see that Jesse Ortiz, who held a 3 to 1 monetary advantage, a sizable name recognition advantage, and an endorsement advantage, won handily in both Woodland and West Sacramento but fell handily in Davis.

Overall, Jesse Ortiz received about 51.6 percent of the vote. However, in Davis, Sam Neustadt won by over 500 votes with a 53.1 to 46.9 margin advantage. In the rest of the district, however, Jesse Ortiz got 54.6 to 45.4 percent of the vote, beating Mr. Neustadt by nearly 1300 votes.

We will explore that question in a moment, but first, the Sam Neustadt campaign, when we inquired about Davis, told the Vanguard, “Given the number of votes still uncounted, we are reserving comment at this time.”

While we certainly understand that viewpoint, we analyzed the potential for Mr. Neustadt to come back and find it to be very remote.

The latest information indicates that there are 7200 votes remaining. While that sounds like a sizable number, over 22,000 have been cast and there is a 700 vote lead.

In order for Sam Neustadt to gain the lead, he would have to get 55% percent of that remaining vote (3958 to 3242). That is not only far greater than his current overall percentage of the vote, it is even greater than the percentage of the vote he is receiving in Davis. That means even if all of the remaining votes were in Davis, he would have to increase his vote share.

Again, there is little reason to believe that there is a skewed distribution of votes that remain to be counted. And there is no reason why we would expect this group of ballots to go overwhelmingly for Mr. Neustadt. Therefore, while it is not impossible for Mr. Neustadt to win, it is very unlikely.




In Woodland, only three precincts went for Sam Neustadt. In West Sacramento, none did. But in Davis, he won 25 precincts and overall 53 percent of the vote.

We talked to a lot of people with knowledge of Davis and the race. There is a some split in the viewpoints. One argues that Davis claims to be “progressive,” more so than Woodland or West Sacramento, but preferred the least progressive candidate.

Jessie Ortiz, they argue, supported universal preschool, holding charter schools accountable, focusing on low-income and first generation students, and focusing on special education programs.

One supporter of Sam Neustadt argued that he was better qualified for the job and better known in Davis. Jesse Ortiz’s base of support is in Woodland, so naturally he would do better there.  But that does not really explain West Sacramento either.

Adding to the intrigue is that Jesse Ortiz was endorsed by all five of Davis’ City Councilmembers. However, Sam Neustadt also had prominent individuals in the community supporting him – Delaine Eastin, Jan Bridge (former school board member), Susan Lovenburg, Alan Fernandes (school board member) and Marty West.

Mr. Neustadt gained the endorsement of the Davis Enterprise as well, which in a race of this sort may be more critical than a city council race where the public has much greater awareness.

If Davis is such a progressive community, they asked, why didn’t Davis support the more progressive candidate?

The view from several Jesse Ortiz supporters in Davis was that the electorate here in Davis really did not know him that well and he really had not spent a lot of time in Davis socially or politically until he ran for the Superintendent of Schools.

Ground games are important and it seems that there was not much of a ground campaign by Mr. Ortiz in Davis, whereas Sam Neustadt seemed to have a lot more energy.

Mr. Ortiz is well-known in Woodland and probably had a better base in West Sacramento, whereas Mr. Neustadt seemed to have very little base of support outside of Davis.

Mr. Ortiz, we are told, did make it a point to come to many Davis events that he had never come to before, but that paled in comparison to the type of effort in Davis it takes to introduce yourself.

Robb Davis, a relative unknown, was able to overcome that to win a seat on the Davis City Council. He did so by walking each precinct in Davis and talking to hundreds if not thousands of Davis voters. That is the type of effort it takes for an unknown to win in Davis. Going to events is good and important, but that only captures the politically active class.

It comes down to this – up until the Election Day endorsement of Sam Neustadt by West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, Sam Neustadt really did not have a huge base in either Woodland or West Sacramento to be able to counter the built-in advantages that Jesse Ortiz had.

In Davis, he was able to overcome that and some people believe that had the race ended a few weeks later, Mr. Neustadt actually had the momentum and may well have won. The numbers do not necessarily suggest that, 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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  1. wdf1

    Neustadt campaigned aggressively in Davis. He was at the Farmer’s Market constantly, and was walking neighborhoods. Ortiz seemed to rely more on local endorsements rather than campaigning as actively. In total, I think to many Davis voters Neustadt appeared to be working harder to earn their votes. I guess he wasn’t working as hard outside of Davis.

  2. Davis Progressive

    i think there is another factor here that david surprisingly did not mention – davis tends to be more progressive and democratic than woodland, but also more elitist and perhaps anti-hispanic. is that being captured here in the analysis, because it seems so glaring to me that two cities with large hispanic populations voted for the latino and the city with a very small one voted for someone other than the latino.

    1. tj

      Yes, that was my thought also. Cultural differences. Neustadt looks more like a UCD professor or a medical doctor, while Ortiz doesn’t immediately project, at least to non-Hispanics, an upper income mentality. He looks more in tune with average people, not the stereotype of a desirable Davis resident.

      1. tribeUSA

        The photo of Ortiz did turn me off–too much the look of a slick politician ready to insert himself as a major cog in the regional political machinery (I acknowledge I may be totally off-base here and doing him an injustice; I don’t know the man). Neustad has the look more of a grass-roots “in the trenches” guy with his feet planted firmly on the ground; not with fancy alliances and beholden to major league political interests. (I acknowledge my perceptions might be off base).

        1. tj


          To be clear, Neustad had fancy alliances and is beholden to major league political interests like Delaine Eastin and her associates.
          Perhaps you’re saying that he didn’t LOOK as though he had those big supporters.

          1. tribeUSA

            Yes, I acknowledge I might be wrong in my assessments. For the case of Neustad, from body language in a brief TV clip I saw of him (which I only vaguely remember), a photo, and his statement in the election pamphlet. For Ortiz, just his photo and his statement in the election pamphlet. I confess to casting my vote based on such liimited information; I suspect like the majority of voters, having limited time to thoroughly research each candidate/issue.

    2. tribeUSA

      Ortiz has an Ivy League education; and so has elitist credentials that should endear him to the snobby ‘ole davis elitists. I agree with you that it is likely that many hispanics perceived that a fellow latino might better represent their interests (graciously call this pro-hispanic rather than anti-white) and many of those of european heritage likely perceive that another fellow of european heritage might better represent their interests (graciously call this pro-white rather than anti-hispanic). Of course, the opportunity-launch for aspiring politicians provided by good ‘ole reliable identity politics and wedge politics will never be exploited by any politician where two or more distinct cultural groups are not fully integrated.

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