Sunday Commentary II: Council Future May Depend on What Dan Wolk Decides to Do

Will Mayor Wolk run for reelection?
Will Mayor Wolk run for reelection?

We are a year away from the next city council election but it is not too soon to be thinking about this. School is about to let out for the summer. The council is a month or so away from a recess that will take us to late August and into September.

The city government events of the last week have put the focus on the governance of the city as well as the issue of economic development. But, as was pointed out to me in the last week, as much as some of those decisions are outside of the hands of council, ultimately the structure of government and policy direction comes from council and that is very much an outcome of a political fight.

In 2016, we may see a Measure R vote in June – and possibly one in June and November, depending on how council ultimately views Nishi and Mace Ranch Innovation Center. There has been talk about a parcel tax on the June 2016 ballot. And, of course, we have the council election itself.

Up for reelection in June 2016 are: Dan Wolk, Lucas Frerichs and Brett Lee. Most likely Lucas Frerichs and Brett Lee will run for reelection. As they probably know better than anyone, there are no assurances in Davis politics. In 2012, Lucas Frerichs and Brett Lee got elected by unseating long-term incumbents Sue Greenwald and Stephen Souza.

However, the intrigue rests with Mayor Dan Wolk. Mr. Wolk, as you will recall, in 2012 was the top vote getter in the city of Davis, becoming the first candidate to sweep every precinct in the city. Two years later, he threw his name into the hat for the open State Assembly race.

It ended up that the three main Democrats in the race, Mr. Wolk along with Bill Dodd and Joe Krovoza, would split the votes on the Democratic side of the ledger. That left Mr. Dodd in first, Republican Charlie Schaupp in second, and Dan Wolk in third. Bill Dodd then easily won in the general election.

The question now is whether Dan Wolk will opt to seek reelection for the city council or whether there is a path that he can take to higher office. His decision will weigh heavily on what happens in the city council election.

Dan Wolk’s path to higher office is by no means clear. Right now Bill Dodd is in the first year of his Assembly tenure. Under new rules, he can serve up to 12 years in the legislature, regardless of the branch.

The State Senate race is wide open. Lois Wolk (Dan Wolk’s mother) is termed out after eight years in the Senate. Former Assemblymember Mariko Yamada has already announced she is running for the seat. She was out of office as of December 2014.

One possible scenario is that Bill Dodd will challenge Mariko Yamada and probably another formidable candidate for the open Senate seat. That would open up the Assembly for Dan Wolk, and perhaps others, to run for that seat.

However, that seems risky for Bill Dodd. In 2008, Mariko Yamada stunned the pundits by defeating West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon for the Assembly seat. She did this partially by taking advantage of some critical mistakes by Mr. Cabaldon, aided also from the strength of labor pumping in hundreds of thousands of dollars, but, more critically, she flooded the district with canvassers.

One of the big motivations in the way the vote went was the personal animus that labor had with Mr. Cabaldon. Moreover, Bill Camp, who headed up the Central Labor Council, was a driving force in that election, and he is now gone.

Still, Mr. Dodd would be giving up a safe seat that he could hold for 12 years to take on a formidable opponent that he may well defeat, but perhaps would have only a 55-45 percent chance of doing so. Moreover, it is not clear, but he may only be able to run for two terms under the new rules, which would mean forgoing two years in the legislature to do so.

There are two other alternatives for Dan Wolk if Bill Dodd does not decide to do that. One is that he could directly run for the State Senate to replace his own mother. How that would play is anyone’s guess. The disadvantage he would have is that the union support likely would not be there for him.

There is a third possibility. For some time there were rumors that Congressman John Garamendi may retire and not seek reelection. Dan Wolk could then attempt to run for Congress. However, that seems a longshot for a lot of reasons.

First, there is no indication from Congressman Garamendi that he is retiring. Second, even if he does, it is not clear that Dan Wolk would have the advantage as his potential replacement. And third, the advantage for Dan Wolk running for the legislature is that he would not have to move his family. However, being in Washington, D.C., would be a huge strain on a man with young kids.

Our belief, therefore, is that Dan Wolk really has two options. The first option is to run for city council again. The other is that, if Bill Dodd decides to run for State Senate, Dan Wolk could run for Assembly.

If Dan Wolk runs for reelection on the council, it is hard to foresee a scenario by which he would lose. As a result, there appear to be a number of potential candidates who are waiting in the wings to see what Dan Wolk does before jumping into the race.

The direction of the council may hinge on these kinds of decision. We are facing crucial issues such as the direction of the budget, the issue of employee compensation, the issue of taxes, and, of course, economic development and land use.

As we saw with the CFD (Community Facilities District) vote, there is a clear 3-2 majority that will favor those kinds of issues. The CFD vote is important because it would seem to embody a host of issues that may play out as we move toward Measure R votes and as we plan for future growth and development of the city.

Moreover, the city manager vote may have been 4-0-1 but that vote was probably a bit deceptive, and a different composition of the council may well have led to a very different outcome. With the shake up from last week, we may see a different direction on a number of key issues by a council with a different make up.

In short, the decisions by Dan Wolk, and by Bill Dodd, will have a huge bearing on the council future and we expect that decision to come down in the next three months or so. Remember that, by this time in 2013, we already had Dan Wolk and Joe Krovoza in the race.

—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. Justice4All

    Ill just say that Bill Camp is still on the executive board at the Labor Council, and still has significant influence there. I would also add that the new Executive Director is no pushover either.

  2. zaqzaq

    So a termed out Lois Wolk puts her support behind Dodd to encourage him to run for senate opening up the assembly slot for Dan.  That would be a really interesting scenario.  Davis wins by being rid of Dan although the state loses by having Dan in the assembly.  Hmmmmmmmmmmm.

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