Vanguard Analysis: The Race for Third for School Board?

Tom Adams has the endorsements of Susan Lovenburg, CSEA, Davis Enterprise and Sacramento Bee.
Tom Adams has the endorsements of Susan Lovenburg, CSEA, Davis Enterprise and Sacramento Bee.

A few weeks ago, we handicapped the school board race and argued that Madhavi Sunder and Barbara Archer were the prohibitive front runners. We don’t have available polling data so we make use of a bunch of inferences based on endorsements, money, campaign activities and a lot of gut feelings.

We do not see a lot of change on this front. Both Madhavi Sunder and Barbara Archer have captured a large percentage of the endorsements from prominent citizens and public officials. In campaign reports filed this week for donations through September 30, Madhavi Sunder is running way out in front with $25,000 in cash contributions, dwarfing a lot of the city council candidates.

Barbara Archer is running a strong second with nearly $14,000. Whatever advantage that Ms. Sunder might have in money is probably offset by the fact that Ms. Archer is a bit better known.

Both ladies earned the endorsements last weekend from both the Sacramento Bee and Davis Enterprise. In short, we see no reason to believe that anyone other than these two will finish first and second, and in a school board race, it really does not matter which one finishes first or second (or third for that matter).

The Race For Third

The question a few weeks ago was who was going to emerge for third. There are five other candidates in the race. Right now we are going to consider three that perhaps have a chance at third.

The two we do not believe will finish third are Chuck Rairdan and Mike Nolan. While Mike Nolan has two advantages – he ran in 2010 and received 6568 votes and has received the Davis Teachers Association endorsement, we just do not see a tremendous amount of energy from his campaign. He’s brought in just $1340 and, even in a school board election, that’s not going to cut it.

Chuck Rairdan is probably the least well known of the candidates going in, and has only raised $3150 and it appears a good percentage of that ($2350) is a loan to himself. He had to overcome lack of name recognition and again, $3150 is going to make that a very tall order. It certainly didn’t help that in the televised debate a month ago, he was the other candidate (in addition to Jose Granda) to oppose a new parcel tax.

The Case For Tom Adams

If you had asked me a few weeks ago, I would say Tom Adams was the likely candidate to emerge as the third place finisher. Since that time, he has become the candidate to earn the endorsement of the only returning school board member (not counting appointed Alan Fernandes), Susan Lovenburg (who also endorsed Barbara Archer). He picked up the third endorsement from both the Sacramento Bee and Davis Enterprise. He also earned the endorsement of the California School Employees Association.

He has a solid track record, both in the school district and professionally, that will help his candidacy. (Contrary to popular belief, last week we did not argue against volunteerism, only against it as the main criteria for assessing a candidate’s worth).

The Case Against Tom Adams

While Mr. Adams has picked up key endorsements, it’s not clear that his campaign is as robust as you would think. He has raised the fourth most in contributions at $5500, but that’s actually a very distant fourth with all three candidates ahead of him more than doubling his output. So while he seems to be riding some coattails, it’s unclear what he’s personally doing in the field to enhance his prospects.

Three other campaigns seem to be outworking Mr. Adams and, in a race with no incumbents and everyone starting out with little name recognition, the campaigns that work hardest are most likely to win. From where we sit, Mr. Adams is more visible than three of the campaigns, but less visible than the other three.

The Case for Bob Poppenga

Bob Poppenga a strong third place on fundraising
Bob Poppenga a strong third place on fundraising

The story on Bob Poppenga is probably the opposite of Tom Adams. Bob Poppenga started this race known to very few people. He is not flashy. But if you look at his resume and listen to him speak you get a sense for who he is and where he is coming from. That he is in the position to finish third and win a seat is a testament to his work.

The most stunning revelation is that Mr. Poppenga has raised $11,676 in cash and over $12,000 in total monetary contributions. Now half of that is from his own pocket, but of Tom Adam’s $5500, nearly $2000 was from his own pocket.

The Poppenga campaign has been one of the top three most active in terms of campaign events, letters, and op-eds. And they are walking precincts. Last week, the Vanguard got a visit from Mr. Poppenga and his wife. In a tight race, those kinds of contacts will matter. The Vanguard also received a mailer from Mr. Poppenga, and that will make a difference as well.

The Case Against Bob Poppenga

As we said, his campaign is in a lot of ways the opposite of that of Tom Adams. He didn’t get the teacher’s association endorsement, didn’t get endorsed by either newspaper, and, as we noted, he started this campaign as an unknown. He has amassed a solid list of endorsements, including Lois Wolk, Mariko Yamada, Jim Provenza, Brett Lee, Jesse Ortiz, Joe Krovoza, Helen Thomson and Gina Daleiden, but he lacks the newspaper and union endorsements that could have pushed him clearly over the top.

Jose Granda is a wild card, but Vanguard says, no.
Jose Granda is a wild card, but the Vanguard says, no.

The Case for Jose Granda

Jose Granda is a wild card in this race. At first glance, you would say, no way. He’s anti-parcel tax in a town that has voted 70 percent on average in favor of parcel taxes. But in a seven person race, being the only candidate that is clearly anti-parcel tax (Chuck Rairdan argued against a new parcel tax) and perceived to be anti- tax.

Talking to people around town, they look at the seven-person race, they see that Mr. Granda received nearly 6200 votes in 2012, and they project that if those votes represent a block of people opposed to the parcel tax, then perhaps he is a threat.

They see the strong race that John Munn ran for city council where he nearly unseated Rochelle Swanson.

The Case Against Jose Granda

The Vanguard’s analysis, however, suggests that these fears are largely unfounded. While we put him here because we will not completely discount the possibility that Mr. Granda, who is the only one of two candidates (with Mike Nolan) previously on the ballot and who has gained notoriety – mostly negative – in the community, the analysis does not suggest that Jose Granda will finish third.

In 2012, in a five-person race where the top two finishers got placed, Mr. Granda finished fourth with 6181 votes. That was 14.5 percent of the vote share and he received votes from just 18.7 percent of the voters.

Was that a strong showing? No. He finished slightly ahead of Claire Sherman and received about what Mike Nolan received in 2010 as the only non-incumbent facing three incumbents.

While Mr. Granda is the candidate who is identifiable with No on parcel taxes, he actually severely underperformed the No on Measure E, which ran concurrently in November 2012. While the No on Measure E received 9253 votes, Mr. Granda only received about two-thirds of those. So Mr. Granda couldn’t even capture all of the votes in opposition to the parcel tax.

That was actually a similar problem that John Munn had. And John Munn spent a healthy amount of money, much of it on ads in the Davis Enterprise in June 2014. Jose Granda, on the other hand, hasn’t spent or raised enough money to file the California Form 460.

In short, there is no reason to believe that Mr. Granda was connected with anti-parcel tax voters enough to form a solid conclusion that he will capture that portion of the vote.

Even if he had in 2012, it would not have been enough. 9200 votes would have placed him ahead of Alan Fernandes for third, but behind Susan Lovenburg and Nancy Peterson, both of whom got a higher percentage of the voters than No on Measure E.

Moreover, simply taking 6000 votes and sticking them into the current election is likely not appropriate. The 2012 election had a whopping 33,000 voters participating in a year where there was a contested presidential election. That’s about a 78 percent turnout.

We will not see near that number. In 2010, perhaps a comparable off-presidential year election, the turnout was 26,000. That was still a healthy 60 percent. If Jose Granda receives the same 18.7 percent of that vote, he would get about 4882.

Is he likely to do better than that? Probably not, given his lack of campaigning and visibility.

Bottom line from this analysis, we see him finishing more with Chuck Rairdan and Mike Nolan than with Bob Poppenga and Tom Adams.


Right now we will go with Madhavi Sunder and Barbara Archer in the top two. Bob Poppenga may have a slight edge over Tom Adams because of his campaign work, but that is the race to watch. We really do not see the other three candidates factoring in the result.

—David M. Greenwald

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. Davis Progressive

    it comes down to me, who takes the constituents seriously – all of the constituents.  three candidates seem to be doing that, four are not.  the vanguard is a place where a lot of people read, why if you’re tom adams, would you need be outfront trying to connect?

    1. Napoleon Pig IV

      Let’s hope before November a few more sheep look up from their nice grass and realize that Barbara Archer is just a Lovenberg/Peterson clone. As for Adams, I seem to see a few puppet strings running back to Lovenberg in his case as well. Oink!

      1. wdf1

        Lovenberg/Peterson clone

        Lovenburg never endorsed Nancy Peterson.  During Peterson’s short tenure on the board, I saw enough differences of opinion to make it difficult to argue that any trustee is a clone of the other.

        1. Davis Progressive

          that’s not a very meaningful statement.  lovenburg and peterson were on the same ballot, so the fact that she didn’t endorse peterson is not surprising.  on the other hand, lovenburg voted to uphold the suspension of crawford, which is of course her right, but she also co-wrote the infamous “move on” letter that ended sheila allen’s political career.  clearly that is what napoleon is referring to and your response is patronizing.

  2. wdf1

    This sentence was recently added to the Davis Enterprise article about the campaign finance reports published this past Sunday.

    Poppenga and Rairdan missed the deadline for filing their paperwork. Both were asked to sign a waiver acknowledging their late filing, which is standard practice for a first offense. On the second offense, candidates get a stern warning and on the third offense, they are fined, said a spokeswoman for the Yolo County Elections office.

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