Analysis: Poppenga Leads Money Race; Is Fernandes the One in Trouble?


School Board Stock

The Bob Poppenga campaign put out a release yesterday highlighting strong first half fundraising numbers for the second-time challenger.  The numbers are a little dated, as the filing period ended June 30, but it seems the media, Vanguard included, missed the early filing.

The release states, “Bob Poppenga has raised twice as much in monetary gifts as the three other candidates for the Davis School Board in the November election combined, according to the latest campaign disclosure statements.”

Mr. Poppenga raised $8,719, while Susan Lovenburg, who is running for her third term on the School Board, raised $4,360, for the period from January 1 to June 30, 2016. Neither Alan Fernandes nor Jose Granda raised any money during the period (of course, neither had even filed their papers as of August 1 – so there’s that).

The release noted that Bob Poppenga received funds from 42 individuals or couples, while Susan Lovenburg received funds from 24 individuals or couples. Susan Lovenburg also loaned her campaign $2,708, while Bob Poppenga loaned his campaign $420.

I have three takes out of all this – and remember, it is early, we are only heading to Labor Day, the traditional start of fall campaigns.  We are also hosting a candidates forum on September 18, from 6 pm to 8 pm at Community Chambers.

First, make no mistake, Bob Poppenga is all in on this one.  He finished fourth just behind Tom Adams two years ago, has kept his presence up in the community since then, and, while knocking off an incumbent is tough, he is positioned to do so.  His strong early showing is testament to this.

Second, I really wouldn’t make a huge deal out of the campaign loans received.  We saw this in the city council election – the campaigns were leaning less on contributions and more on personal loans.  Fact is, Brett Lee put in a relatively large loan to his campaign and didn’t raise a huge amount of money.  He then went out and walked the town more than any other candidate and he killed it in terms of outcome – he had one of the most dominating showings ever.

Lesson learned is that money doesn’t win in Davis.  You need enough money to do the things you need: print brochures, do one mailer, have lawn signs and campaign ads – and then you win by walking.

As far as we know, Bob Poppenga and his campaign team are the only ones walking so far.  My home was already subjected to a visit from Mr. Poppenga’s campaign team.  So, as much as the money showing is good, the walking is where he is going to win it.

That leads to the question – which incumbent is more vulnerable?  On paper, we assessed perhaps Susan Lovenburg.  Why?  We noted that incumbents running for a third term in Davis start to falter.  We don’t have recent data in the school district, but we can look at Sue Greenwald, who barely hung on for a third term in 2008 and then lost a fourth attempt in 2012; Stephen Souza who finished fifth out of five in 2012; and even Sheila Allen, who served nine years on the school board and then finished fourth running for council in 2014.

With longevity comes a buildup of negatives, and for Susan that means being in an awkward position on the Nancy Peterson saga, including being the co-author of the letter asking people to calm down (which I still believe is what did Sheila Allen in), and now the AIM struggle.

While those issues could make it interesting for Susan Lovenburg, I think if I were Alan Fernandes, I would start worrying more.

Alan Fernandes comes to the community with solid credentials.  He ran in 2012 for school board, but finished third behind Susan Lovenburg and Nancy Peterson.  Nancy Peterson then resigned following a two-month long saga involving the DHS volleyball program.

Alan Fernandes was appointed to fill her spot until November.  Mr. Fernandes then had to run for election on the same ballot but a different spot than the rest of the field running for three open seats.  So why run for a two-year seat against an appointed incumbent when you can run for a four-year seat with three openings – and that’s what happened, seven people filed for the full term and only Alan Fernandes filed for the two-year seat.

Alan Fernandes basically didn’t campaign two years ago.  So now we have Alan Fernandes, an incumbent who lost in 2012, was appointed and ran unopposed in 2014, and what has he done this year?  He filed right at the campaign filing deadline and hasn’t raised any money as of June.

While surely his recent fundraiser brought cash into his coffers, a reasonable question will be asked as to how hard he will work.  He has a demanding day job and he’s going to clearly get out-worked by Bob Poppenga.

It should make for an interesting race.

—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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17 thoughts on “Analysis: Poppenga Leads Money Race; Is Fernandes the One in Trouble?”

  1. lotaspark

    Davis children will be best served if Bob wins the race and Susan is not reelected. Bob researches the facts, listens to all sides, and thoughtfully makes decisions. All attributes missing from Susan and a couple of the other board members. It is time for common sense to prevail and children to finally be helped by board decisions instead of hurt by them!

    1. wdf1

      Bob researches the facts, listens to all sides, and thoughtfully makes decisions. All attributes missing from Susan and a couple of the other board members. 

      There is subjectivity here that likely won’t bring us to agreement.

      I see that Poppenga is viably a good candidate and potentially good trustee material based on watching his candidacy last time, but am waiting to see how he addresses issues this go around.

      Having watched school board meetings for some years, I find Lovenburg to be consistently one of the best prepared to discuss issues in school board meetings.  I may not personally agree with her positions on all things, but I can readily see that she does her homework and can better understand the basis for how she reached her decision, and thus understand the starting point for communicating with her on issues.

      1. quielo



        What do you think of Fernandez? I am opposed to some of the positions the Lovenburg has taken, particularly as regards AIM though this may not be justified. In my previous district they did not have separate GATE strands and it was fine so I am not using separate strands as a litmus test. Watching the end of the AIM process gave me a certain level of antipathy towards Lovenburg and her cohorts that may not be justified. I have not been overly impressed with the teaching at DJU but it’s still early for me.

        1. Don Shor

          In my opinion Alan Fernandes has made an effort to bridge the divide on the board about GATE/AIM. If Bob replaces Alan, GATE is in serious trouble because of the demographic outcome of the change in testing. If Bob replaces Susan, GATE could be revisited and the harm that the current board majority has done might be reversed. Alan would then be the swing vote on the issue.

        2. quielo

          Thanks Don,

          And Granda? He seems to focus on reducing costs which may make him a natural swing seat. Since AIM is well supported by parents and doesn’t cost anything he may be for it. It would be bad to have a bloc of people like Granda as I would prefer to spend more, not less, but having only one may be useful. I personally feel embarrassed that we pay teachers less than park maintenance workers.

        3. wdf1

          quielo:  What do you think of Fernandez? 

          Fernandes, (spelled with an ‘s’) in general, has good social/political skills, which were on display in finding ways to bridge the issue on AIM (a nod to Don’s point).  But I think he fell a little short in that area on the discussion of the school parcel tax.  He was in favor of a rainy day fund and a much higher level on the school parcel tax, but he didn’t articulate very well how the rainy day fund would work — under what specific conditions does one tap into it? and now that California has a rainy day fund, how would the DJUSD rainy fund work relative to that?  I think that left him without any other support on that issue — it was too foreign a concept for school parcel tax discussion for others to embrace.  And he also staked a position that was too extreme to facilitate a compromise.  It was hard to see that he got what he wanted on that issue.  Budget discussions (which includes the parcel tax) are tough ones to have, and I think experience helps.

          In his discussion on some issues (the above school parcel tax, for instance), I would like to hear him be more specific and cogent.

          As a younger member of the board (with younger kids), I think he can resonate with younger families in the district.  I think he claims that as an asset to his candidacy.  But the downside of that perspective is that it is hard to have as solid longer term vision of education that older parents can have.  Outside of board meetings, I have seen ways that he has reached out to constituents in positive ways.

          Although he ran as an unsuccessful candidate in 2012, he didn’t have to run for election for his current seat (he was appointed, then ran unopposed for the remainder his term), so it will be interesting to see how he performs as a candidate in a contested election.

        4. wdf1

          quielo:  And Granda?

          I have a hard time understanding how Granda sees himself as a trustee.  IMO he’s all over the map.  He’s for everything for schools, for increased state funding (he supported Prop 30, anyway), but against local school parcel taxes.  He thinks that even without the school parcel taxes that the funding is still there to support all the wonderful programs he says he supports.  I don’t see it, and his explanations for budget solutions fall far short.  IMO there is a greater aspect of pandering in his candidacy, as evidenced by his conflicting positions.  He seems to align himself with anti-tax fiscal conservatives, but can’t connect so well to the current active parent population.


        5. quielo

          Wdf1; What I have seen about Granda aligns with your comments though I have never met him. He does not seem to be running in an accessible manor as contrasted to Bob though perhaps he does not like standing at the Farmers Market.  

          I am currently in ABL (anyone but Lovenburg) mode at the moment but will continue to listen to what the individuals say. Appreciate your and Don’s comments on Fernandes.

    2. Tia Will


      It is time for common sense to prevail and children to finally be helped by board decisions instead of hurt by them!”

      I was totally with you until you got to this last statement. I believe that “common sense” is greatly overrated. It is my experience that many times very thoughtful people do not agree on what is “common sense”. And further in my experience, it is frequently those who are fact and evidence based and do listen to all sides who adopt ideas that seem to go directly against “common sense”. Many of our top innovators have adopted ideas that seemed on the surface to directly contradict the old “common sense” in favor of a new paradigm.

      1. lotaspark


        The common sense I was referring to was regarding picking someone who “researches the facts, listens to all sides, and thoughtfully makes decisions”. We are not all going to agree on the decisions made but we should at least agree that thought and effort should be used in making those decisions.

        On multiple occasions I have personally seen a parent speaking with Susan about the needs of their own child and she will rebuff them and say that she disagrees. The parent is NOT saying that is the needs of all children, just their own, and she feels that she knows better. She doesn’t even know this person’s child and she thinks she knows more about them than the people raising them. She may know the needs of some children but certainly not every child. She makes up her mind about her position on issues before ever looking at evidence or listening to all sides. Definitely NOT someone I feel should represent the needs of children.

  2. Tia Will


    Since AIM is well supported by parents and doesn’t cost anything he may be for it.”

    I have a somewhat different perspective on this point. It is not that AIM does not cost “anything”. It is that it is not any more expensive than a regular classroom. It is not “free”. This may seem like simply a matter of semantics, but I do not see it that way. The cost of the AIM program is money that is being weighed against other potential programs or strengthening of other current programs.

    I no longer have children in the public schools and I have no particular preference for or against the AIM program. What I do have is an interest in a careful weighing of the pros and cons of all programs and I do believe that how we frame the issue and what words we choose in that framing can make a major difference to how people form their opinions and thus how they vote.

    1. quielo

      Hi Tia,


      OK, I will say “no additional cost”. As I noted before I have experience with kids in separate strands and GATE in the classroom and have no real preference. The attitude of the Lovenburg bloc was highly concerning though.

      In other matters I prefer more language instruction in the early grades. It is a less expensive educational initiative than some of the others and has more proof of lasting benefit. if I was here in kinder I would have enrolled my kids at Chavez. A similar immersion program in Mandarin would be highly beneficial and would be at the top of my list for new programs. I am skeptical of the value of early STEM training or cognitive in general. Most kids would be better served by more PE>

  3. Napoleon Pig IV

    On March 19, 2014, a letter was published by the Davis Enterprise, co-authored by Susan Lovenburg and Sheila Allen in which they said, “It’s time to move on.” I couldn’t agree more.

    Now is the time to move on from the Lovenburg-Allen-Peterson-(Archer)-(Adams) way of thinking – time to move on to new and better ideas to create a brighter future for our children.

    The way to do that is to elect Poppenga and Fernandes.

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