We are a week away from the Vanguard’s DJUSD School Board Candidates Forum, which will be a week from tomorrow (Wednesday, September 17) at 6:30 at the Fellowship Hall at Davis Community Church, and which is co-sponsored by Davis Media Access, who will be recording and replaying the forum over and over again.
We have passed the crucial Labor Day marker and are now less than two months from the election. It is quiet; however, despite the large volume of candidates, it may just be that we know who three of the four winners will be.
There is of course no suspense whatsoever as to who will win the two-year seat and that is because Alan Fernandes is running unopposed. Again, nothing against Mr. Fernandes, but that is most unfortunate. A lot of candidates probably wagered that it would be easier to run for the three open seats for the four-year terms rather than opposing an appointed incumbent (albeit a strong one even without being appointed) for a two-year seat.
However, and this is our first handicapping, it looks right now like there are two very strong candidates for the four-year seats.
They took different paths to get there, but Madhavi Sunder and Barbara Archer look like near locks to win seats. Madhavi Sunder was relatively unknown a few months ago, but she has assembled a campaign team second to none, she parlayed her position as finalist in the appointment into a strong campaign that hit the ground running and has picked up endorsements from what appears to be a majority of voters.
However, Barbara Archer, who has spent years working as a parent volunteer at all levels of the school district, is running just as strong. She looked like she might have had the edge for the appointment because she was a bit better known, but the school board, figuring they had three very strong candidates, opted for consensus (all four had voted for Alan Fernandes in the first round) and electoral experience.
Both candidates have the support of the Davis Teachers Association and the Yolo County Democratic Party.
Both have the endorsement of Senator Lois Wolk, Assemblymember Mariko Yamada, and both Davis Supervisors Jim Provenza and Don Saylor.
Both have the support of all five councilmembers. The one difference may be that four school board members endorsed Barbara Archer, but only Gina Daleiden and Tim Taylor endorsed Madhavi Sunder.
But it is pretty even, and Madhavi Sunder adds Cruz Reynoso and School Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.
While I probably have Madhavi Sunder as the leader at this point, Barbara Archer figures to be a close second.
But that leaves us with a big question mark: who finishes third? And that seems wide open. It has been pretty quiet so far. Each of the five candidates has some edge.
For Mike Nolan, he ran before in 2010, losing to the three incumbents and he has, like the two ladies, picked up the endorsements from the Davis Teachers Association and Yolo County Democratic Party. However, we have not heard much from him in terms of a campaign thus far.
Then you have Tom Adams. Mr. Adams was actually the fourth place finisher when the board appointed Alan Fernandes. He received two votes, falling just shy, and only four candidates received votes. He has a strong background in volunteering in the district.
Bob Poppenga is more of an academic, but he has gotten some exposure, writing a few columns in the Vanguard.
Chuck Rairdan is a parent and served on the strategic planning committee.
Finally you have Jose Granda, who has been the vocal opposition to every parcel tax. While that is clearly a minority view, if he can land a similar number of votes – around 6000 – as he did in 2012, he could end up placing third.
The bottom line, from our perspective, is that we believe we can safely pick three of the winners in this most important school board election. However, the third place finisher for the four-year seats is wide open and we can make a credible case for any of the five.
Right now, if we had to guess, the edge would be with Mr. Adams, Mr. Nolan and Mr. Granda, but that is really speculation and could change rapidly.
Make sure to join us next Wednesday at the candidates forum and find out more about all of the candidates.
—David M. Greenwald reporting