Analysis: IE and Comments by Republican Candidate Make Assembly Race Suddenly Interesting

Cecilia Aguiar-Curry said she is not taking money from oil or tobacco
Cecilia Aguiar-Curry said she is not taking money from oil or tobacco

In a race devoid of a ton of money and energy, a half million dollar independent expenditure (IE) by conservative groups like EdVoice and the oil and real estate industries figured to shake things up.  Part of what has happened is that blanket primaries in California allow for conservative interests in Democratic districts to attempt to get the more moderate Democrats elected.

In 2014, Bill Dodd, a strong candidate in his own right, did just that on the backing of his own robust fundraising with some help from business-oriented IEs.  2016 would appear a bit more tricky, as Cecilia Aguiar-Curry struggles to raise her own money, but interject $500,000-plus in IEs and it’s a potential game-changer.

Adding fuel to the fire on Monday were comments by Republican Candidate Charlie Schaupp who finished second in 2014.

He said, “I found out at the State GOP Convention about 10 days ago that IE money then was $300K for Aguiar-Curry.  It is PG&E, Chevron, Realtors and others that want her in the ‘top two’.  They have spent a lot on polling…and will keep polling, both real polls and push polls, to ensure Cecilia is in ‘top two’.   When the polling shows she is slipping they will spend more IE money…That is why it’s now at $500+K.   They did the same for Dodd last time.”

He explained, “Last poll numbers I heard was Wolk and I are on top, followed by Aguiar-Curry then Saylor (almost a 4 way tie)…then way back is Kropp.   I am not sure how or whom they are going to spend their IE money on except to build up Cecilia in the polls…and attack ads.  But I don’t know if the attack ads will be aimed at Wolk or me or all of us.   All these monies supporting Cecilia are normal GOP backers.”

He added, “For what it’s worth the  IE money will keep pouring into this race until the special interests are sure Aguiar-Curry is in the ‘top two’.”

Cecilia Aguiar-Curry told the Vanguard that she is not attempting to raise money personally from oil or tobacco interests.  In fact, she said that she did receive a check from oil and she returned it.

She said, “I am not beholden to anyone and will not flip flop.  Of all the candidates in this race, I’m the least likely to be swayed by special interests.”

Meanwhile, the Wolk campaign put out a statement, “This week, groups funded by big oil companies, like Chevron, Valero and Tesoro, and tobacco companies, like Philip Morris, spent over a half million dollars promoting one of my opponents.”

“They aren’t spending this money because they want to make our community better,” Dan Wolk said in a campaign email. “They are doing it because I have spent my career standing up to these special interests, effectively fighting for the environment and the health of our community.”

He added, “They think they can just buy a seat in the Assembly and don’t expect that I will be able to match them in the big money game.”

Later Mr. Schaupp wrote that, talking to PACs and lobbyists back in December, he realized that “political forces were already lining up behind Aguiar-Curry” in order to prevent Dan Wok from finishing in the top two.  “They want to keep Wolk out of the ‘Top Two’ again.   It was pretty clear then and has come to fruition now…”

Of course, Mr. Wolk himself is playing into that.  As we noted, his campaign fundraising is fairly lackluster for a someone that most analysts expected to finish at the top in a relatively weak field of candidates.  The reality is he is neck and neck with Don Saylor with just over $200,000 raised.  That means that an injection of $500,000 by IEs could heavily sway the field.

Mr. Schaupp wasn’t done there, “And on polling, my sources told me in the Senate race Coppes and Yamada are leading, followed by Dodd.  This means that Dodd will spend the ‘Max Amount’ from his war chest over the next 3 weeks to get into the top two…as well as the GOP leaning independent expenditure groups to protect the large investment they made two year ago into Dodd’s election to the Assembly.  If Dodd doesn’t (make) ‘top two’ he is out of office and they lose their investment.”

The Dodd campaign, however, emphatically denied the accuracy of his comment.  From our standpoint, it doesn’t pass the smell test.  As we reported on Sunday, we expect Bill Dodd to win this one overwhelmingly and that poll would be stunning.

The question is whether the Assembly race poll that Mr. Schaupp cites is accurate – if it is, it could spell trouble for Dan Wolk unless labor money pours into the race.  The problem that Mr. Wolk faces is that labor is not united behind his candidacy but rather split between him and Don Saylor.

That is not the only split.  In a close race, the face that Dan Wolk and Don Saylor will split eastern Yolo County may play a role as well now.  Many analysts believe that without Joe Krovoza’s presence in 2014, Dan Wolk would have finished in the top two.

While I agree with that assessment, I’m not sure that Dan Wolk would have defeated Bill Dodd in November – on the contrary, I’m pretty sure he would not have.

This sets up an interesting race in the Assembly District, one that might not be complete until November.

—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. darelldd

    >> That means that an injection of $500,000 by IEs could heavily sway the field.

    Totally. Just imagine how many more yard sign/ignorant voter votes that money can buy!

    (Not picking on any one candidate here. Just the process, and the concept that how much money a candidate raises is “news” that’s more important than issues. Issues are hard. “Swaying the field” is much easier. At least with money.)

    1. David Greenwald

      Darell: From the news’ perspective, here’s my thinking. As I pointed out yesterday, you can have the greatest ideas in the world, but if you can’t get them out to the public, you won’t win. That takes money or organization and most often both. Second, money and campaign funding sources are what political scientists might call signaling cues to the public. Talk is easy, but the people backing a candidacy are doing so for a reason and they often send a much clearer message as to what the candidate is about. Third, and I think most important from my perspective as a news person – I am reporting this not from the perspective of who would be the best elected official, because that’s subjective, but rather from the horse race perspective as to who will win. Criticize the system, I get it. My job in part is to make sense of that system for the readers to better understand what is going on.

      1. darelldd

        Thanks David.

        The thing is, I don’t see money buying distribution of “greatest ideas in the world.” Is there an example of that happening anywhere? I see the money going into a name on a yard sign. I see it going into flyers that have bullet item sound-bites (I’m for education and financial accountability!). I see the money going into little flags and posters that can be waved at rallies. I see the money going into mud-slinging and outright lying. And of course I see it spent on lavish parties for the huge donors. The only way I know where a politician stands is to look at the background. the record. See what he or she has done and what the affiliations are. If all I know about a politician is what was purchased to put in front of my eyeballs, I know nothing of substance about that politician except for maybe how much money has been raised.

        What would happen if every politician were put on the same financial footing? That way you have to find the most efficient way to get your great ideas out there, and you aren’t likely going to spend so much time dragging the others down. We don’t produce so much waste in mailers and yard signs. If we put some reasonable total spending cap on everybody – for a bid at City Council, make it $1000. If you raise more than that, great! It goes to a charity or cause of your choice. For POTUS, make it $100k. Everything in-between scales appropriately.

        Is it more “fair” and democratic to have them spend as much as they can raise? So if you’re a better fundraiser, you have a better chance of winning? That part I just can’t grasp.

  2. Jerry Waszczuk

    He said, “I found out at the State GOP Convention about 10 days ago at IE money then was $300K for Aguiar-Curry.  It is PG&E, Chevron, Realtors and others that want her in the ‘top two’.  They have spend a lot on polling…and will keep polling, both real polls and push polls, to ensure Cecilia is in ‘top two’.   When the polling shows she is slipping they will spend more IE money…That is why it’s now at $500+K.   They did the same for Dodd last time.”


    This is what is America about.  MONEY , MONEY MONEY. It does not matter whether we like it or not but  MONEY  have evil power  .  Dollars  and polls are the real and powerful votes in elections

  3. Tia Will

    I think that the current race is an excellent example of why it is never wise to vote by declared party affiliation. In both local, regional, and now national elections we now have candidates declaring party affiliation ( or lack thereof) not because they adhere to any set party platform, or even philosophic tendency to agree on more issues, but merely to aid their chances to win an election.

    While I staunchly defend their right to make any claim they want regarding their political affiliation, I would question the honesty and reliability of anyone who changes party designation immediately prior to an election in which they intend to run for office. To me, this seems much more compatible with a desire for personal advancement than it does adherence to any set of principles. And if it does indicate adherence to a set of principles, then I would see it as even more concerning since it would mean that the individual was willing to compromise their honesty to advance their political agenda.

      1. Tia Will


        There are a lot of problems of democracy that parties solve”

        Agreed. And like every aspect of life that I can think of , political parties have their pros and cons. I was speaking only to the inherent risks of voting party slate without looking into the specific record, votes and accomplishments of each individual on that slate.

    1. hpierce

      So, are you saying it’s not ok to “self-identify”?  If you are of a conservative bent, you have to use the Republican tent?  If you’re of a liberal, you have to use the Democrat tent?  Just looking for clarification …

      BTW, there appears to be no tent for those who tend to be somewhat conservative on some issues, somewhat liberal on others.  Perhaps we need a separate tent, particularly in the primaries, which are fully paid for by all, but the Republicans (in particularly) and Democrats (to a large degree) get to say who can vote in partisan races.

      We need to either have fully open primaries, of have the major parties pick up the lion’s share of the costs of the primary voting process.

      1. Tia Will


        So, are you saying it’s not ok to “self-identify”?”

        No, and I did not say that anywhere in my post. What I did say is that I think it is a good reason to know the individuals background, their record and their actual accomplishments rather than just voting a party line.  “Self identification” is of course everyone’s right. But to me it may indicate a change of perspective…..or it may represent nothing more than the desire to get elected in a geographic location in which you do not perceive that you have a chance without making a change of political affiliation.

        And if it is truly clarification that you seek, you might want to re read the second paragraph of my post. The one where I state that ” I staunchly defend the right to identify anyway one wants”. I have no problem at all with this if someone is honest about their motivation. I have difficulty with obfuscation in a person seeking public office.

        1. hpierce

          Fair enough… was sensing “once an X always an X”… apparently I was mistaken as regards to your view…  am thinking I was not wrong as to others who appear to hold that view.  Have  a good week…

          Oh, BTW… Dodd changed his afilliation over 2 years ago… what is your “statute of limitations” as to a change of true views?

        2. hpierce

          And, it still galls me that an ‘independent’/NPP has no damn chance to seek any ‘partisan’ office, due to the current “system”, rigorously protected by the Democrats and Republicans.

      2. Marina Kalugin

        the two-party system itself is a joke…and with the election fraud rampant it is no better than a sham… at the highest level, once the mudslinging is done, historically one can look at the major contributors to the puppet show on each side and see the same corporations supporting both sides.   This year is certainly interesting as the frontrunner or runner up on both sides are much more independent and not beholden to the typical special interest groups..   unique opportunity to say the least.


  4. Misanthrop

    David has spent months bashing Wolk only to find out that Wolk is the candidate that oil and tobacco want to beat. This is of course why I have defended and supported Dan all along, because I know that underneath all the local bashing Dan will do a great job for the health and (rail) safety of the people of this district and the state.

    As for Yamada, don’t count her out. I also heard about the polling showing her in the lead. If as you say, the IE’s spend more when behind, my mailbox has been full of IE mailers for Dodd.

    Could it be that the people of the district have figured out Dodd’s party change was more about political expediency than philosophy? A Republican trying to out Democrat a Democrat. It worked for Dodd in 14 but maybe this time will be different. Time will tell if as Dylan said “Money doesn’t talk it swears.”

    1. hpierce

      So, somebody can’t be “trans-political”?  You have to run for office based on the party on your original registration identification?

      1. South of Davis

        hpierce wrote:

        > So, somebody can’t be “trans-political”?  You have to run for office

        > based on the party on your original registration identification?

        I find it funny that many of the same people who get mad when people do not accept a man that “identifies” as a woman are the ones who can’t accept the fact that Dodd now “identifies” as a Democrat…

        1. Misanthrop

          I have no idea who you are referring to or why it is relevant. Who are these “same people.” Perhaps you are referring to something related to the Mrak Hall protests. I think the only thing I expressed was a criticism of those that fell back on bathroom identification as a feeble complaint.

          Also I was only speculating about what might be going on in the Senate race if the polling we are hearing is accurate. I don’t think I even expressed a personal preference. Certainly less so than David ever does.

    2. Marina Kalugin

      actually, oil and tobacco also want to beat Saylor…in that race only Aguilar is their friend….  though I got a huge and glossy IE flyer from her today disputing that oil and tobacco are supporting her….  LOL

  5. Sam

    “They are doing it because I have spent my career standing up to these special interests, effectively fighting for the environment and the health of our community.”

    Like when he stood up to the beverage industry an killed the soda tax for them?

    1. South of Davis

      Sam wrote:

      > Like when he stood up to the beverage industry an killed the soda tax for them?

      I have never received a penny from the beverage industry, I hate soda, and I don’t let my kids drink soda,  yet I would have voted to kill the soda tax.  Do you have a link to a campaign finance statement showing “beverage industry” donations to Wolk?

  6. Charlie_Schaupp

    David,   As you know as a candidate I cannot solicit help in the form of an independent expenditure (IE), either  to help my own campaign, or attack others in my race.   But I can expose them for what they are doing, why they are doing it, and try to  keep the IE’s honest and the voters informed.   I just want to say thank you for the providing a platform for getting the information out to the voters.   I believe they have a right to know what is going on and  your reporting, albeit we usually would disagree in our political points of view, is doing just that…Letting the voters know.  Thank  you and Semper Fi, Charlie

  7. Michael Harrington

    I voted for Saylor today.  First time in my life.  He is very experienced, and a solid guy on the public issues.  Both Wolk and Saylor are probably in the same ballpark on issues, but Saylor has the seasoned experience from years on the DJUSD Board, City Council, then Supervisor.  Very well rounded, even if I disagreed with some of his land use and employee comp decisions while he sat on the CC.

    1. Marina Kalugin

      I like Saylor the best also, but he is coming up a distant 4….to keep Aguilar out of the top two, and with the concern that Wolf and Saylor will split the difference….it is hard to do what I feel is best…

  8. Marina Kalugin

    On the Push Polls over the recent months,  which were for Dodd and for Aguilar…..Mariko Yamada’s name was not even mentioned but I kept bringing it up…   It was clear that for their purposes they just wanted to act like she didn’t even exist.   On the other hand,  the push poll was designed to be for Aguilar also, and that is why the continuous verbiage to direct away from Saylor.   Since I was definitively for Saylor out of the bunch,  the questions then were designed to attempt to sway from Saylor to Aguilar..   Wolk was no longer coming up as the poll was not focused on trying to sway away from him….    These kind of attempts to persuade or dissuade and a script that ignores the major candidate, while claiming to be an independent poll, should be illegal….  Hopefully when Mariko wins she will lead that fight…

    PS>   Very nice turnout of big name Democrats at the Fundraiser for Mariko tonight at Frank Fat’s..   real independent polls are still showing her in the lead….and the fact that Dodd, IE and EdVoice are cranking up the dollars is only because they feel that is needed… Dodd has already spent $1.7 million of his own funds in addition – or would they just be spending such amounts if they didn’t feel it was necessary?   not likely..

    The Bernie Sanders rally Monday night had over 21K supporters and no media coverage.   I found out tonight that the Sanders supporters are going all out supporting Mariko Yamada also…  I saw that occurring earlier as they often had their tables set next to one another and were obviously supportive friends…

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