Analysis: Time Not Yet for A Council Race

City-Hall-SlideIn the past month, we have seen the State Senate and State Assembly races already flooded with candidates, as Bill Dodd joined Mariko Yamada, who had announced her campaign for the State Senate back in March, then Dan Wolk and Don Saylor both announced their campaigns for the State Assembly seat.

There is nothing unusual about that activity. In 2008, Christopher Cabaldon announced in January 2007 that he was running for the State Assembly and Mariko Yamada announced shortly thereafter. For the 2014 campaign, both Joe Krovoza and Dan Wolk announced in May and June 2013 for the seat, and they were not the first people to do so.

However, to everything there is a season and the Davis City Council has tended to have candidates announce later rather than sooner. I was therefore taken aback a bit by the Enterprise headline yesterday, “Mayor’s soon-to-be open seat draws little interest, for now.”

Okay it’s late July, the temperature is over 100, and half the town has fled on vacation to cooler environs, so we’ll cut the paper some slack on the sensationalistic headline. Lucas Frerichs, for example, reminded me the other day that, in 2012, he announced on February 14, Valentine’s Day, for a June election.

And that’s not that extreme from what we have seen since 2010. From our vantage point, election announcement timings seem to mean little – and while lesser known new candidates tend to announce earlier, even that is somewhat random.

In 2010, Joe Krovoza was making the rounds in November of 2009. He was a first time candidate, and was among the first to announce, along with Sydney Vergis who had run and finished fourth behind three incumbents in 2008. It was fairly well-known that she would run for council.

On the other hand, Rochelle Swanson, who had some clear ties to the community but was unknown in political circles, threw her name into the race late. The Vanguard ran a story about her announcement on March 10, 2010, and even commented that there “was a brief period of time when it looked like candidates Sydney Vergis and Joe Krovoza would be anointed rather than elected to the Davis City Council.”

About the same time, Mayor Ruth Asmundson officially announced she would not run and that was shortly after Lamar Heystek announced he would not run for a second time – after a brief period where a group of citizens attempted to change his mind.

In 2012, it was fairly obvious that the incumbents would run again for council – that was Dan Wolk, who was appointed in 2011, and three-term Councilmember Sue Greenwald and two-term Councilmember Stephen Souza.

Brett Lee announced on October 1, becoming the first official candidate in the 2012 City Council Election. Dan Wolk had scheduled his announcement for October 21. Stephen Souza would announce his third term on November 5.

But again, Lucas Frerichs did not announce until February 14. Mr. Frerichs, while a newcomer in terms of elected office, had a long history in the community serving on campaigns as well as on several commissions.

It was October 2013 that Robb Davis became the first to announce he was going to run for city council. While it was widely believed that Sheila Allen, a sitting school board candidate, would run, she waited until January 25, 2014, to announce her candidacy.

Incumbent Rochelle Swanson announced just a couple weeks before, on January 11, 2014, at Davis Roots.

The late announcer in that race was John Munn, who was narrowly defeated, finishing third to Robb Davis and Rochelle Swanson. John Munn was a one-time school board member, a taxpayer advocate and a litigant on the water matter. He announced on February 23.

The take-away message here is that the article finding little interest in July, nearly a year out from the election, means very little.

In the three previous election cycles, October was the time de jure for the early announcing new candidates to throw their hats in the race.

We firmly believe both Lucas Frerichs and Brett Lee will seek reelection.

The recent trend has been cheaper elections, that are shorter.

And most importantly, in each of the three years, a candidate has announced in February or later. In 2010 Rochelle Swanson would win. As would Lucas Frerichs in 2012. And John Munn could have won, having announced when he did.

Early handicapping of races doesn’t make a lot of sense.

In 2010, Joe Krovoza came out of nowhere to dominate the race, in which he finished first in all but one precinct. Sydney Vergis was a heavy favorite to win the second seat but Rochelle Swanson, a late entrant, would pass her up.

In 2012, it was obvious from the start that Dan Wolk was going to finish first, but it was stunning that two incumbents went down to defeat. In my time covering the council, those are the only two incumbents to lose an election in the city of Davis. You have to go back to 2004, when Michael Harrington was defeated, to find the last incumbent who lost.

They were defeated by the early announcer and the last announced candidate.

In 2014, Robb Davis came out of nowhere to finish a commanding first. Rochelle Swanson was able to hold onto her seat. Sheila Allen, a heavy favorite early in the race, finished a distant fourth and John Munn, the late entrant, nearly knocked off an incumbent.

But here’s the thing about all of those races – they all began and ended after July the year before.

So, while we should stay tuned, it is too early to read anything into the candidate field.

—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. Davis Progressive

    the lack of comments here actually prove the point of the article – too soon.  according to the enterprise, michelle and matt may be candidates… interesting.

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