Analysis: Game, Set, Match for Dan Wolk?

Davis Mayor Dan Wolk at the Council Meeting in July
Davis Mayor Dan Wolk at the council meeting in July

A few days ago, readers were questioning why covering endorsements in a campaign is news. The answer is that, while an individual endorsement is not likely to sway votes, the flow of endorsements and who endorses which candidate helps to shape the flow of the campaign.

With that being said, not all endorsements are created equal, and on Wednesday Davis Mayor Dan Wolk, who a month ago announced he would not seek reelection to the Davis City Council and is instead running for State Assembly against Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor, received perhaps his biggest endorsement to date.

Few people outside of Napa County have likely heard the name of Alfredo Pedroza. Earlier this year, Mr. Pedroza was appointed by Governor Brown to the Board of Supervisors to fill the seat vacated by Assemblymember Bill Dodd.

Mr. Pedroza now joined his colleagues on the Napa County Board of Supervisors, Diane Dillon and Mark Luce, who have already announced their support for Wolk.

“I am proud to endorse Dan Wolk for Assembly because he will work to create opportunity for all and stand up for our region’s most vulnerable residents,” said Mr. Pedroza. “Dan is dedicated to issues important to our community, such as public education, health care for all and ensuring those who work hard never have to raise a family in poverty.”

The supervisors lauded Wolk’s experience and understanding of some of the issues most important to Napa County.

“Dan Wolk is committed to protecting our natural resources that are so important to our local quality of life,” said Supervisor Diane Dillon. “As a mayor creating long-term solutions to ensure a steady water supply and a county attorney dealing with water issues, Dan has the experience and track record to help us through this challenging period and prepare us for future crises.”

But this is about far more than just an endorsement. You see, Alfredo Pedroza was long-rumored to himself be a candidate for the State Assembly seat his predecessor on the board held. His decision not to run for Assembly and instead support Dan Wolk drastically changes the potential campaign dynamics.

The biggest part of this announcement is that it continues to clear the field for Dan Wolk to emerge as the clear front-runner. In 2014, Bill Dodd was able to win the seat by dominating the field in the western part of the district. Dan Wolk was able to win Yolo County, but the margin was reduced by the presence of fellow Davisite Joe Krovoza.

The result was that Bill Dodd was able to secure his base, then Charlie Schaupp was able to win the majority of Republican votes to finish second, and Dan Wolk and Joe Krovoza split a lot of the eastern portion votes in finishing third and fourth, outside of the final running. Whether Dan Wolk could have beaten Bill Dodd one-on-one with no Republican in the general race seems very problematic, but he never even made it to the general.

With Don Saylor emerging as a candidate and a potential strong Napa candidate on the ballot, the same dynamic could have occurred. With Mr. Pedroza declining to seek election, clearly the field gets thinner and that is a huge advantage for Dan Wolk.

But there is more to this than just clearing the field. With Bill Dodd supporting Dan Wolk along with three members of the Napa Board of Supervisors, not only is the field clear, but it appears that the Napa power establishment is ready to back Dan Wolk.

There will naturally be questions about what exactly changed in two years. We can see the genesis of this alliance as Lois Wolk has clearly put her weight behind Bill Dodd as opposed to Yolo County’s Mariko Yamada for the State Senate.

While it is a big district, and there will likely be at least one Republican emerging to force the race to November, it now appears likely that there will be no further strong Democratic candidates emerging that can threaten Dan Wolk.

Is this over? That will be an interesting question. We know from 2008 that West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon was at least as heavy a favorite as Dan Wolk appears to be right now. They have a lot of similarities as mayors of their respective towns, facing lesser-known county supervisors. Mr. Cabaldon was far more formidable, with over a decade of experience as mayor and highly respected regionally. However, Dan Wolk carries the advantage that the Assembly district has been represented by his mother in the Senate.

But Mr. Cabaldon, in 2008, would ultimately lose in a huge upset by Mariko Yamada. There were two factors in that – an overreach by Mr. Cabaldon and the fact that the unions were heavily supportive of Ms. Yamada, while strongly opposed to Mr. Cabaldon.

No such dynamic exists in the current Assembly race. In fact, our analysis from a few weeks ago is that, on the issues, it is hard to separate the two candidates. That will preclude a huge push against Mr. Wolk by the unions who are likely inclined to favor him.

We will have to see if Mr. Saylor can gain any traction in this race – but, as of right now, the odds for Dan Wolk’s ascension to the Assembly have gone way up. Mr. Pedroza’s decision not to run and to endorse Dan Wolk have completely changed the potential dynamics of the Assembly race and swung things heavily to Dan Wolk’s favor.

—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. Eskimo Pie

    I’m not a fan of Don Saylor for a number of reasons. But I have at least always viewed him as a practical, politically savvy man. He has to be thinking right now what exactly he has to gain by playing this out. He has a lot to lose.

    1. hpierce

      What can he lose?  If he doesn’t advance, he is still a County Supervisor, and that pays quite nicely.  If he loses his current bid, I just don’t see any ‘loss’, even in future runs for supervisor.

      I know that there is no scenario that I can envision where I’d vote for Saylor for Assembly.  Iffy if I’d vote for Wolk.  But that’s just me.

      Still just don’t get where Saylor has anything to lose (excepting, perhaps, a small ego bruise) by staying in the race.

      1. Eskimo Pie

        Saylor is a political insider. His career has been made by buddying up to the political establishment. Now, all of a sudden, he is bucking the establishment, potentially severing the ties he spent years forming. And for what? Is he a maverick in defense of a noble cause? No. He’s sacrificing his insider status and establishment relationships for nothing more than personal ambition. He has never gone against the grain once in his political career even when it was a no-brainer right-thing-to-do (like releasing the fire report). Now he appears willing to sacrifice all that for ego in a losing effort.

        1. Davis Progressive

          i agree with part of this.  i think it will be interesting to see if he has the muscle he once had and whether he has the ability to re-write the current narrative.

        2. hpierce

          From what I’ve seen and heard, Saylor’s true “influence” is a ‘legend in his own mind’.  Or that of others who give him a certain ‘cachet’, at least on the small stuff.  He tried to use his ‘perceived power’ at least once with City staff (as a CC member), and that was brushed away as one would dispel a gnat.  No consequence to the staff who brushed him away.

          Don’t get me wrong, I like Don as a person… just don’t see any real influence that he has.  But, as they say, perhaps, “a myth is as good as a mile” in politics.

        3. Davis Progressive

          hpierce: thank you for the nice chuckle.  saylor is a legend in his own mind.  however, he also was able to finish first in 2008 for mayor and win two uncontested elections for the board of supervisors.  i have heard from some, that he is a relentless worker.  now will that translate into higher office against the wolk machine?  no.

  2. Davis Progressive

    sorry eskimo but i do think that wolk cut some deals here to clear the field.  first dodd goes to the senate.  then lois wolk endorses dodd and dodd endorses dan wolk.  now napa is cleared for him.  someone cut a deal.

    1. Eskimo Pie

      Of course a “deal” was cut, though I’m not even sure if call it that. Lois Wolk never liked Mariko (she endorsed Cabaldon in 2008). So she was probably already looking for someone else whom she could support. Once Dodd starting looking at the race, I’m sure he asked her if she would support him. Would you be surprised or even blame her if she said “only if you support Dan for your seat”? Seems pretty logical to me. I would do the exact same thing if I were in any of their shoes.

  3. Charlie_Schaupp


    Recommend you keep your eye on the Mayor of Winters, Cecilia Aguiar-Curry.   I found out last night at the Yolo County Fair she is racking up some key endorsements…You might be in for a shock on the Democratic side…




    1. Eskimo Pie

      That would be more bad news for Saylor. Now there are three Democratic candidates not just from Yolo County, but from his Supervisorial district. Only one of whom has indicated he has support from outside of that area.

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