Brett Lee a Surprise Runaway Winner in Council Race

Brett Lee (center) with Robb Davis (left) and Jim Provenza (right) awaiting returns
Brett Lee (center) with Robb Davis (left) and Jim Provenza (right) awaiting returns

Brett Lee ElectionsAs it turns out, the three candidates expected to win office on Tuesday did so.  The order is not what most people predicted, however.  Will Arnold won a seat on the city council, but he did so placing third, 54 votes behind Lucas Frerichs, pending the counting of additional absentees.

Most observers had expected him to finish first, perhaps in a runaway fashion.  There was a runaway winner on Tuesday, but it was Brett Lee who did that, winning 33 of 34 precincts and finishing second in the other one.

Brett Lee called it an “affirmation of a good job over the past four years and a strong campaign team.”  In the end, he took advantage of championing the rental rights issue and may have hit the ground harder than anyone.

For his part, Will Arnold said he is probably the only one not surprised by the results.  In retrospect, we were starting to see indications that he might be coasting or taking the results for granted.  He raised only $17,000 and pumped $26,000 of his own money into the race.

During the campaign, he came into inheritance from his late father, Doug Arnold, who helped build a real estate company.  Will Arnold and his wife then purchased the Mother & Baby Source and much of his time went into running that business and taking care of his children.

Will Arnold and his wife Nichole early in the evening
Will Arnold and his wife Nichole early in the evening

Still, he told the Vanguard that he was pleased to get a spot on council and that this was his goal.  He told the Vanguard, “To have the community I love elect me to serve in this capacity is truly humbling and one of the proudest moments of my life.”

In July, Robb Davis will take over as Mayor of Davis and Will Arnold will replace Dan Wolk on the city council.  Experience of just two years ago tells us that, while such changes may not look huge on paper, they can often end up being far more significant.

It is Brett Lee who will take over in July as mayor pro tem.  Twice now, the Vanguard has underestimated the strength of Brett Lee’s candidacy and his campaign team.  Four years ago, in 2012, Brett Lee  surprised many, going from an unknown candidate to unseating two incumbents – Sue Greenwald and Stephen Souza.

Lucas Frerichs with his wife Stacie
Lucas Frerichs with his wife Stacie

He won many over during that time with his soft-spoken demeanor and his analytical strengths, which he took to the city council.

In the meantime, Lucas Frerichs for the second time in a row finished second.  Matt Williams, as expected, ran a somewhat distant fourth.  While Brett Lee finished 1300 voters ahead of Mr. Frerichs and Mr. Arnold, Matt Williams finished nearly 3000 votes behind the third place Will Arnold, with 16.5 percent of the vote.

Brett Lee surrounded by supporters after it became clear he was going to finish first
Brett Lee surrounded by supporters after it became clear he was going to finish first

As it turns out, Matt Williams, with a stronger campaign, might have had a better chance to nose out Will Arnold and Lucas Frerichs than anyone would have guessed.

It was Brett Lee who dominated the field.  He received 31 percent of the vote, but an astounding 57 percent of the voters actually voted for him, the only one to top 50 percent.

—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. Barack Palin

    Not surprising, no one candidate really stood out.  I went into the voting booth thinking I was only going to vote yes on Measure A but when I looked over the council candidates I decided to vote for Brett Lee and nobody else.  I feel Brett is a fair man and totally votes his conscious and is not beholden to any groups.

    It’s too bad no one candidate really stood out, they all seemed like the same flavor of vanilla.  It would’ve been wise if one had been against Nishi or against taxes like the soda pop tax.



  2. Joe Krovoza

    Congratulations Brett, Lucas and Will, and to Matt for running a solid campaign and bringing clear thinking and depth to many issues. Brett’s correctly seen as truly independent and a solid negotiator for City interests by many different groups.  That built the respect we see reflected in this AM’s results.  This does make sense — as all elections do, in retrospect.

  3. Tia Will

    Well done gentlemen !

    My thanks to Brett, Lucas, Will and Matt for being willing to put their names forward to serve on our City Council. Many of us choose to advocate from the sidelines for policies that we favor. Very few of us step up and volunteer to take on leadership positions with all the hard work that entails.

    I also want to thank all involved for making this a truly positive campaign. What a lovely contrast to the negativism seem in many of the other campaigns this season.

    1. hpierce

      I agree that we would be well served by any three of the four, but I did have a vote that differed from the outcome… as the next mayor pro tem will be the highest vote-getter, and as long as Brett or Will achieved that, I went in pretty confident… maybe Will’s turn will come 4 years from now…

    2. darelldd

      Well said, Tia. I agree with the various sentiments you expressed.

      I think about that bit all the time where I have the luxury of becoming expert in only those things that are of most importance to me… where council members needs to be an expert on everything that comes before them. It is a huge effort and huge responsibility that few step up to take on.

    3. dlemongello

      Joe and Tia, well put, my sentiments exactly.  We all want our town to do well and though I had my preferences, every candidate deserves our good will and support for the hard work they have signed up to do.  It was a nice positive campaign with people talking about their own strengths, all good decent people working on our behalf. Much appreciated!

  4. Matt Williams

    Congratulations to Brett, Lucas and Will.  I concur with Joe, the voters respect the work that Brett has done on their behalf over the past four years, and clearly said they want more from him.

    The numbers do not support BP’s assessment that no one candidate really stood out. The majority of Davis voters (at the very least 54%) saw enough of a difference that they voted for less than three of the candidates.

    1. Barack Palin

      Matt, on what major issues did any of you differ?  I only voted for Brett because I already knew of his good service on the council and felt he was a stand up guy even though I didn’t always agree with his votes.  I want candidates that will vote on issues according to their true beliefs, not candidates that will always vote in line with other council allies.  I always felt that way when it came to Wolk and Frerichs, as evidenced by their firefighter votes, and I felt that would’ve been the same story with you and Robb Davis.

      1. Matt Williams

        BP, the simple answer to your question is (A) “fiscal responsibility” and (B) “Establishing a Culture of Accountability.” 

        Given the fact that Robb didn’t even endorse me, your last 13 words are interesting to say the least.  Do you care to expand on the logic behind those 13 words?

        1. dlemongello

          Good morning Matt.  It is hard to understand how anyone paying attention, whether they found it a positive or negative, would not see how you stood out.  Your message was loud and clear FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY, and the know-how to implement it.

        2. Matt Williams

          Agreed Donna.  I was the only candidate who hammered that message consistently throughout the campaign.   I was even accused of being a Republican by a number of voters.

          BP has his own sense of what a “major issue” is.  It will be interesting to hear what he thinks were the major issues actually are.

  5. The Pugilist

    Everyone assumed Will was unbeatable and Lucas was strong.  As it turns out a stronger challenge might have unseated one.  I voted for Will, so I hope he turns out better than Wolk.

  6. Justice4All

    Brett had a strong team of dedicated volunteers, and he worked exceptionally hard to win. He also was the only candidate with a strategy to win votes from the students and working poor, many of whom were voting because of measure A and Bernie Sanders. Its good that he won, and won big.

    1. Don Shor

      Brett has support from all across the political spectrum, continuing the recent trend of our top vote-getter being the most independent candidate.

  7. Marina Kalugin

    I’m happy Brett won…the only sane voice at times on the current council.

    We really needed Matt though – next time Matt…..if you had been smart, you woulda changed your vote on A….. otherwise people couldn’t find you….

    I mean those who just looked at signs and so on… looked too much like all the rest….

    PPS> I ONLY voted for Matt……..and I believe that others who truly wanted a change on the council did the same…. Brett was my second choice….Will seems like a nice enough guy, but really, do we need the Arnold dynasty controlling the council?

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