Analysis: Examining the Suddenly Interesting 4th AD Race

Wolk-CurryIt was interesting this week that both Dan Wolk and Mariko Yamada, in separate races and not supporting each other, chose to fire back at essentially the same groups who are backing independent expenditure campaigns funding their opponents.  Analysts will say that calling out the IEs probably doesn’t have a huge impact on their effectiveness.  However, it does elevate the debate into the news.

While Assemblymember Bill Dodd has largely sat back and allowed the matter to rest more or less, Dan Wolk and Cecilia Aguiar-Curry have engaged in a more public war.  The Winters mayor is in a bit of a bind – her campaign finance numbers are flagging and that means the IE campaign is the best chance for her to get elected, but it means getting into bed with oil, PG&E, and EdVoice, among others.

One interesting factor is that Dan Wolk has chosen to confront Cecilia Aguiar-Curry – Don Saylor has not.  Charlie Shaupp, the Republican in the race, has engaged on this issue as well, albeit more in comments on the Vanguard than in other forums.  Does this reflect the reality that Dan Wolk and Cecilia Aguiar-Curry are the main competitors from the Democratic side vying for a spot on the November ballot, or is Supervisor Saylor merely attempting to stay above the fray?

The Wolk campaign came out swinging on Monday with a press release attempting to tie Ms. Aguiar-Curry’s statement, on fracking, at a League of Women Voters forum in Woodland to her support from the oil companies.

The campaign charges, “The oil companies’ expenditures for Aguiar-Curry began on May 5, the day after she said at a League of Women Voters forum in Woodland that she felt ‘the jury is still out’ on fracking. Oil companies have heavily lobbied the legislature for relaxed regulations on the practice of fracking, which many scientists believe is environmentally dangerous.”

They continue, “Davis Mayor Dan Wolk immediately criticized Aguiar-Curry’s statement about fracking at the forum and pointed out the dangers for our state and region.”

Cecilia Aguiar-Curry fired back that the comment was taken out of context.  Ms. Aguiar-Curry, in a release on Wednesday, responded, “I have said in multiple endorsement surveys and forums that I support a moratorium on fracking, as very serious issues have been raised about the effect of this practice on the environment.”

Earlier this week she responded directly to the video, “The brief, edited clip you reference above is not an accurate representation of my feelings about fracking.”

Ms. Aguiar-Curry noted that “the jury is still out” was in fact “in reference to finding more information in regard to this practice.”

She said, “As I have stated in multiple endorsement surveys, and in other forums where you were present, I support a moratorium on fracking because of serious concerns that have been raised about the impact on the environment.”

She stated that her direct quote to the Sierra Club in March was, “I believe that a moratorium on fracking would be prudent so we can study its overall impacts to our environment.”

The Wolk campaign took clear liberties here and misrepresented the statement and opinion of Ms. Aguiar-Curry.  Some environmentalists would probably like her to have gone further, but compare that to the opinion expressed by Charlie Schaupp who said that he supports fracking “when done properly… when it doesn’t cause environmental harm. It should never be done when its going to hurt the environment or water tables.”

Quickly you see daylight between Ms. Aguiar-Curry’s more nuanced opposition to fracking, and the view of the Republican and likely the view of the industry.

“Big oil is trying to buy a seat in the Assembly for their chosen candidate, Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, because she has shown she will not resist their attempts to hurt our environment. I won’t stand for that,” said Dan Wolk.

This statement therefore appears to be pure hyperbole.  While big oil may well be trying to buy a seat in the Assembly, they clearly are backing someone who may well resist their attempts to hurt the environment, but whom they probably deem as more reasonable or malleable to their position than Mr. Wolk or Mr. Saylor – who was also less equivocal than Ms. Aguiar-Curry.

Mr. Wolk’s statement then included: “I have spent my career taking on special interests like big oil and I will continue to fight for our environment in the Assembly.”

At first glance this would also appear to be pure hyperbole and campaign bombastic statements.  It is hard to see Mr. Wolk, who reportedly caved at the first sign of pressure by the beverage industry, as spending his career taking on special interests.

Mayor Dan Wolk expressed his support for the Congressman's efforts in April 2015 in front of the Davis Amtrak Station
Mayor Dan Wolk expressed his support for the Congressman’s efforts in April 2015 in front of the Davis Amtrak Station

That said, there is a little truth to this statement as well.  Dan Wolk was at Congressman Garamendi’s press conference in April 2015, pushing back against the oil trains.

“The railroad comprises the geographic and cultural heart of our community – in fact, it is the reason Davis is what it is today,” said Mayor Dan Wolk during the press conference. “That is what makes this issue – the possibility of so many tank cars filled with Bakken crude oil passing through our community each day – so concerning to us.”

By contrast, we were not able to find a public statement by Ms. Aguiar-Curry on the oil trains.  Some of that may be understandable, given that the trains will roll right through Davis, but not Winters.

Dan Wolk may have earned the dislike of PG&E when, in March 2014, he and then-Mayor Joe Krovoza kept the efforts by the city to create a Publicly Owned Utility alive, albeit briefly.  “I think we do need to keep going on this,” Dan Wolk said at the time.  “I think that the feasibility report presents a really compelling case for a POU.  It’s hard to ignore that.  I’m comfortable with that.”

“This is an issue that PG&E is fighting us on,” he said very pointedly and emphatically.  “Very publicly fighting not just Davis but us and I think it’s critical that our community for all of these reasons get very attuned to what’s happening there.”

Dan Wolk has since been a strong advocate for the Community Choice Energy initiative.

In the meantime, in Winters, one of the big accomplishments was a fast-tracked development of the PG&E training center – a $75 million gas pipeline training and safety center that figures to employ 100 to 150 people for training at any given time.

The more curious involvement in the campaign has been EdVoice.  Obviously there is animosity towards Mariko Yamada from the 2008 election, but why has EdVoice jumped into the Assembly seat race?  One possibility is that they simply see an opportunity in an open seat to convey some influence in selecting a new Assemblymember.

But looking deeper, we can see that Dan Wolk has the support of the educational establishment – CTA (California Teachers Association), CFT (California Federation of Teachers), CSEA (California School Employees Association), CFA (California Faculty Association), and FACCC (Faculty Association of California Community Colleges).  He also has the support of Tom Torlakson, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

From that standpoint, EdVoice can see that Dan Wolk is already aligned with their adversaries and they simply want to block him from being elected.  Their only chance is to find a candidate who is not in lockstep with the educational voices that EdVoice is diametrically opposed to.

So, while that may not mean that Cecilia Aguiar-Curry has any alignment towards EdVoice, it certainly means that they see Dan Wolk as being a lost cause, from their perspective.

From this sense, Dan Wolk (or his campaign) have made a wise decision in entering the fray.  They can become the alternative who is going to take on the oil industry, PG&E and EdVoice.  Cecilia Aguiar-Curry is now a viable alternative, thanks largely to the IE efforts, as her fundraising has been poor.  Don Saylor’s strategy of staying out of the fray may not be the wisest course of action, but he may not have the backing of alternative groups to make the case anyway.

Charlie Schaupp made the argument last week that the efforts were an attempt to bump him off the top two.  That makes some sense.  A Republican is unlikely to win in the 4th Assembly District.  A Dan Wolk–Cecilia Aguiar-Curry November battle is probably the best bet by the industry backers to get a more sympathetic candidate elected.

—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. Tia Will

     it means getting into bed with oil, PG&E, EdVoice among others.”

    Wow !  Choice of words certainly does matter. There are many factual statements that were made in the article about Cecelia Aguilar-Curry’s positions, accomplishment in promoting the PG&E training facility for the perceived needed jobs in her community, and the lagging state of her fundraising. There is no factual basis for the statement above.

    The fact that others are in favor of your candidacy for what ever reason, in no way proves that you are “in bed with them”, or even in agreement with their positions. I think that this is a needlessly negative comment that has the ability to affect opinion without having provided any evidence of its veracity.

    1. David Greenwald

      While I understand your point – here’s mine – did Ms. Aguiar-Curry come out with a statement that these outside groups do not represent the views of her candidacy and did she ask them to cease their campaign on her behalf? Did she come out in favor of the CTA position on education? While I think it goes too far to allege coordination, the fact that she has not repudiated these groups is meaningful. She’s trying to have it both ways – separate herself while using their money.

      1. Tia Will


        I understand your point, and would counter as follows. In person, yes, she did repudiate to me some of the stands of the outside groups. She spoke in some detail about her promotion of educational opportunities for all students, not those fortunate enough to be selected for a charter school. For  another example, favoring a moratorium on fracking is hardly a rousing approval of the policies of the companies that want to proceed.

        In addition, the news media and some organizations have not provided an opportunity for her to state her own message clearly by choosing not to even interview her prior to making an endorsement of another candidate. This is of course their right to do, but for a candidate with limited funds, and limited name recognition, this definitely stacks the deck against her.

        I still have not decided my vote in this contest, but I think that the use of implied negatives without substantiating evidence is not a best practice.

        1. David Greenwald

          She sent out a press release the other day that would have been an opportunity to address some of those points, I may circle back to her if I get the chance, but there seems to be a lot on the plate at the moment.

      2. Matt Williams

        And oftentimes excusing of a fault
        Doth make the fault the worse by the excuse,
        As patches set upon a little breach
        Discredit more in hiding of the fault
        Than did the fault before it was so patch’d.”

        William Shakespeare
        The Life and Death of King John
        Act 4, Scene 2

  2. SODA

    My understanding is that there are various easons an IE will choose a candidate to back and several strategies have been opined over the last few days in the DV. But the candidate chosen has not necessarily applied for the job,right? So all this hyperbole about Cecilia being in cahoots with oil, tobacco, etc is not necessarily by her choice, right? And it is true Dan (as did Dodd) benefited by IE money last time around.

  3. Barack Palin

    In the meantime, in Winters, one of the big accomplishments was a fast-tracked development of the PG&E training center – a $75 million gas pipeline training and safety center that figures to employ 100 to 150 people for training at any given time.

    Funny you bring this up because I remember a line from the Enterprise and I paraphrase:
    Aguiar-Curry got us the PG&E training facility, Dan Wolk got Davis milk in kid’s meals.
    That alone is reason enough to vote for Aguiar-Curry.

  4. Don Shor

    Don Saylor’s strategy of staying out of the fray may not be the wisest course of action…

    Actually, IMO it is. The other two candidates are not coming out of this looking good. Cecilia has not sufficiently repudiated the actions on her behalf, and Wolk’s campaign is being deceptive.

    1. hpierce

      That was my thought too… all Saylor has to do is come in second… why not just watch as two potential contenders try to bloody each other?

      I’ve already voted… let’s just say Saylor did not get my vote…

    2. Don Shor

      Like most Davis folks, I have positive feelings about Dan Wolk. But I don’t think his record as mayor is necessarily sufficiently strong to merit promotion to the Assembly. I knew absolutely nothing about Cecilia Aguiar-Curry before (even spell-check seems to want to misspell her name), so I was interested. But I am very unimpressed by how both their campaigns have chosen to deal with the IE issue.
      Don Saylor has a long record on the council and as supervisor. It’s pretty easy to tell he’d be an effective legislator. I doubt his positions would differ that much from the other two when it comes to state issues.
      I wish Charlie Schaupp was my neighbor, but I suspect I’d disagree with him on a lot of state legislation.
      Overall, this whole imbroglio has pushed me more toward voting for Don Saylor.

  5. Misanthrop

    Fracking isn’t the issue. The issue is oil trains and although both Dan and Don have come out against oil trains running daily through Davis I haven’t heard a word from Aguiar-Curry. Its also about PG$E and their attempts to hold their monopoly over the territory they serve. Its also about health with Davis under Dan Wolk passing restrictions on smoking in public and trying to pass them in multi-family housing. I’m saddened that Tia, who has dedicated her life to helping people be healthy, seems to have missed the health angle here altogether. But from the IE’s funded by Philip Morris its clear that the tobacco hasn’t missed Dan’s advocacy for public health.

  6. Misanthrop

    Why do I say its not about fracking? I say that because Valero is in on the IE buy for Aguiar-Curry and Velero is a refining and marketing company. The oil getting shipped through Davis to the Velero refinery by rail isn’t being produced in California its from wells fracked in North Dakota where the California legislature has no jurisdiction. While Chevron does do some fracking in California they also have a refinery in the Bay Area that the oil trains will stock. A fracking ban in California isn a major concern for the oil industry at this time but opposition oil trains are with the opposition of up rail communities fiercely opposed and Dan Wolk and Davis have led the way being the first to raise the issue.

  7. Tia Will


    I do not like to make decisions without full information. I remain undecided as stated. I do not think that based on the conversation that I have had directly with Cecilia to date that I would say that she favors either charter schools or fracking despite the fact that her campaign is supported by those who do. Her schedule did not permit time for us to get into the issues of oil and PG&E so I cannot speak to her positions on these at this time. However, I do not feel that I have “missed the health issue” so much as that I have not yet explored the issue adequately and am not willing to settle for someone’s suspicions based on third party advocacy for unknown reasons as the deciding factor.

  8. Tia Will


    Vote for Aguiar-Curry, she’s so much more genuine than either Wolk or Saylor who both in my opinion come across as phony politicians.”

    So far, all three have taken positions that I have favored and some that I have not. I do not make my decisions based on who “seems much more genuine or on how one “comes across”. I prefer judging actions to words as I have found them much more reliable predictors in the past.

    1. Marina Kalugin

      I agree very much, Tia….my mantra lately is actions speak way louder than words.

      I believed Obama and voted for him the first time…he lied on various topics which were a part of his first campaign – some things which were very important in my mind for the health and welfare of all people in this country….

      As far as genuine, I like Kropp and Schaupp and Saylor…….way more genuine…….some I don’t know as well, and sometimes that works in someone’s favor and other times not…


  9. Misanthrop

    Sorry  the end of my last post was incoherent so let me restate it. Davis has led the way on opposition  to oil trains by up rail communities. Davis under Dan Wolks leadership was the first community to voice its opposition to bringing crude by rail through our town.

    Dan’s campaign made a mistake trying to hit Aguiar-Curry on Fracking. Sometimes this happens in the heat of a campaign especially where big outside business interests have put more money into the campaign than all the candidates put together. The best I can say is that at least Dan Wolk’s campaign took down the out of context fracking clip when confronted about it.

    Still I think people need to consider that Dan has a record of supporting the health and safety of the people of Davis. He might not be on the same side as you on every issue and has had to retreat on occasion under pressure as happened when he backed down on soda but he has consistently been for issues he believed were in the best interest of the people of the community. Anti-smoking, anti-oil trains, anti-sugary drinks for kids, pro parks, pools, clean water and public education are all honorable positions Dan Wolk has supported while on the council. You put it all together and look at it through the lens of what are the issues that he will face in the legislature and the picture you get of Dan Wolk starts to look pretty good compared to someone who is getting massive financial support from the deniers of climate change and the makers of cigarettes that cause cancer. Not to mention his opponent is receiving massive financial support from the most reactionary forces in education in California today

    1. The Pugilist

      I don’t see Wolk as a leader here.  The first to raise the issue as I recall was Cool Davis and perhaps Alan Miller.  Garamendi was a leader on this .  Dan Wolk, jumped on the bandwagon.

      1. Barack Palin

        I agree.  I don’t see Dan Wolk as a leader at anything unless you consider getting milk in a Happy Meal as some kind of big accomplishment.

      2. Misanthrop

        Garamendi should take the lead (but I’m not sure he was first)as most regulation of rail transport is under the jurisdiction of the Federal government. Perhaps there were citizens and groups who came forward to bring attention on the issue to local officials. Still the record is clear that Davis was the first city to pass a resolution in opposition to the oil trains headed to the proposed new Valero terminal. Davis then went to SACOG where, I believe, Don picked up the issue. Since that time Dan has turned out at rally’s and press conferences to express his opposition and concern about the hazards these oil shipments pose to Davis and other up rail communities. For all the criticism Dan has suffered  we should at least be fair to him on an issue where he clearly has provided leadership.

        As for Aguiar-Curry I never saw her at any rally, press conference or public meeting on the issue. I have never heard her express any opposition to oil trains. Perhaps she did and I wasn’t there. If so let her present her record on the issue. I don’t think she has one she can run on other than having received the independent financial support from the company that is proposing a massive increase in rail transport of oil through the local communities.

        Please vote for Dan Wolk.

  10. Tia Will


    Still I think people need to consider that Dan has a record of supporting the health and safety of the people of Davis”

    I agree with this statement for the most part. Dan has been, for the most part a good advocate for the health and wellness of Davis. I am not sure that this alone makes him the best candidate for advancement, but I do not doubt the sincerity of his interest in this area.

  11. Marina Kalugin

    Dan Wolk has a very narrow view of dental health and listens to the ADA – I am sure he thinks that the ADA and the AMA are the end all/be all on the planet.   But if he would really educate himself (for example) spend more time on PubMed and not close his mind off so much to the newer and better, or sometimes the older and better, he could learn something also.

    The fact that he wanted to poison the children and other residents of this town simply because he believes ADA hype turned me away quite quickly.

    1. Marina Kalugin

      Tia,  yes perhaps a bit harsh…but did you know that under many laws, neglect to protect is the same as doing the deed?

      and, that “no intent” also does not dismiss many crimes either as in “he didn’t intend to kill the …..” said the defense attorney….

      ps.  it is also hard to believe that anyone who studied Chemistry at all would not understand the hazards inherent in the by-product of aluminum processing, but perhaps he didn’t study much of that either as he made his way up the poli sci route   (that last is a conjecture – I have no idea what he majored in in college.. prior to law school)…

      but of course the propaganda is also very thick in the USA….and one cannot help but be taken in by all the Fluoride is good commercials either…

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