People keep asking me my assessment of the school board race for Davis Joint Unified. It is tough to predict these things, as we have limited polling and limited insight into voter mindset.
We have two incumbents, one unusually strong challenger and one protest vote.
I will dispense with Mr. Granda first. This is his third candidacy for school board. He is the only candidate who is opposing the parcel tax and he has improved his messaging over his first two races. Nevertheless, I just don’t see a huge swelling of opposition against the parcel tax – if anything, that campaign is quieter than usual and, with just four candidates, there is no deep split to take advantage of.
To put this simply, in 2012 Jose Granda actually under-performed on the No on Parcel Tax ballot. He received votes from 18.7 percent of the voters, while Measure E received 31 percent No votes. In 2014, running in a more populated slate of candidates for three seats, he received almost the same, 18.8 percent of the ballots.
Can he do better? Yes. Those numbers show that he has room to grow, but there is likely a cap, especially if he’s spending only limited money. In a five-person race in 2012 it took 32 percent of the ballot to win. Given this is only a four-person race, that number figures to be closer to 40 percent, which would mean he would have to over-perform the No on H vote, which is likely to be 30 to 32 percent, by a sizable margin to win.
That leaves three candidates for two spots, and one of these strong candidates will not have a chair when the music stops.
Susan Lovenburg has some vulnerabilities, but so far I don’t see them coming into play. I haven’t heard an overwhelming sentiment for change on the school board, so this being her third term might not be a huge detriment and she has been touting her experience as an asset.
Her handling of the Nancy Peterson sage was similar to that of Sheila Allen, but given that two years of time have passed, I don’t hear much on that.
Finally there is AIM, but while there were quite a few AIM people in the audience a week and a half ago, I don’t see an uprising there either.
Alan Fernandes has some strengths, but as we have noted previously, he really has never been elected to office in a contested election. In 2012, he finished third behind Susan Lovenburg and Nancy Peterson. He was 1900 votes shy of second place. But he was appointed in 2014 when Ms. Peterson resigned and elected that November uncontested for a two-year seat.
As we reported yesterday, Susan Lovenburg and Alan Fernandes have received some key endorsements from the Yolo County Democratic Central Committee and the Davis Teachers Association.
In a normal year, they would probably be shoe-ins for reelection, but they have an unusually strong challenger. In November 2014, Bob Poppenga finished 1100 votes shy of third place, which would have earned him a seat on the school board.
His second race shows a good amount of strength. He has some key endorsements. Last night, a fundraising event at the restaurant Our House featured Will Arnold and Rochelle Swanson from the city council, former Mayor Dan Wolk, Gina Daleiden, a former school board member, and Senator Lois Wolk.
Add in support from people like Mayor Robb Davis, Board President Madhavi Sunder and Supervisor Jim Provenza, and you have a pretty formidable team of endorsers in their own right.
Bob Poppenga has raised the most money so far, has a strong campaign organization and has been hammering the pavement – as well as the Vanguard and Enterprise with letters.
None of this means he will knock off an incumbent, but he certainly has the organization and is putting in the work to get that done.
The big question is, if Bob Poppenga gets one of the two seats, who is out?
This is a strong field, so there really are no weak candidates. That said, I think Alan Fernandes is much more likely than Susan Lovenburg to be one odd person out if Bob Poppenga gets in. I think he would acknowledge that as well.
Earlier in this campaign, the Vanguard questioned how much effort was going into this by Mr. Fernandes. In the end, I think Susan Lovenburg wants this a bit more than Alan Fernandes does, and she and her campaign are working just a little harder. She has finished first twice and, in a field of four, is the only female candidate.
Bob Poppenga probably has the strongest organization of the three and is working the hardest, but he has the most hill to climb to get in.
If forced to pick odds here, I would still go with the incumbents. But Bob Poppenga is running a strong campaign and is a strong candidate. Of the three, Susan Lovenburg seems the most likely to get a seat and finish first. Alan Fernandes is more likely than not to get a seat, but Mr. Poppenga is probably nearly even money to get on the board. I think it’s that close and it will come down to what happens in the next 40 days.
—David M. Greenwald reporting