by Dan Cornford
“I think there are some values that are very different,” insisted Mariko Yamada at a recent forum featuring her and her opponent Bill Dodd in the California 3rd District Senatorial race. Indeed in this election voters are faced with a very clear choice between two Democrats: One a corporate Democrat with a minimal legislative record, and a woman who has served very ably as the assemblywoman for District 4. Before being termed out in 2014, Mariko Yamada was a tireless and effective supporter of many social and economic reforms.
Bill Dodd was a registered Republican until a few months before he announced his candidacy for the Assembly seat being vacated by Yamada in 2014. In explaining his sudden shift of partisan loyalties Dodd has been less than convincing in denying that this was an act of sheer political opportunism in a strongly Democratic district.
In July 2015, having served in the state assembly for less than a year, Dodd announced his candidacy for the 3rd Senate District. With nearly $3 million of corporate support, Dodd beat out his Democratic party primary rivals and pushed Yamada, determined to continue her record of public service, into second place.
Dodd is among a new breed of Democrats that have been labelled variously by the state’s major newspapers as “corporate,” “business,” or “moderate” Democrats.
Passage of the Open Primary initiative in 2010, and the increasing electoral irrelevancy of the California Republican party in most of the state aided and abetted the genesis of this new species of Democrat. In a seminal 2014 article in the Huffington Post entitled “In Plain Sight: The Rise of Corporate Democrats in California,” the author drew attention to this phenomenon and referred to Bill Dodd as “part of a new breed of Democrat, one exceedingly attractive to big business while tone-deaf towards the Democratic Party’s traditional base, which includes union workers, environmentalists and public school advocates.”
In his campaigns Dodd has received hefty contributions from a wide spectrum of corporations not usually associated with supporting the agenda of the California Democratic party. These donations have come from Big Oil (Chevron and the California Independent Oil Marketers); Big Pharma (Pfizer, Glaxosmithkline et al.); Big Banking and Insurance (Wells Fargo, American Bankers Insurance Company et al.) , as well as contributions from Comcast, and Monsanto.
Most strikingly, between April 2016 and early October 2016, Dodd received over $2 million in contributions from EdVoice, an Independent Expenditure Committee dedicated to supporting charter schools and attacking strong advocates of California’s public school system. EdVoice receives substantial funding from Walmart and various wealthy luminaries wishing to privatize California public education.
It is hardly surprising to find that Dodd abstained from voting on California’s landmark SB 32 bill which will reduce emissions of greenhouse gases 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. Dodd voted against SB 260 which would have provided 1.9 million consumers in County Organized Health Systems with the same level of protection as consumers in other Medi-Cal managed health plans.
Dodd also voted against SB 443; legislation (backed strongly by the ACLU) which prevents unreasonable police seizure of someone’s assets who has not been convicted of a crime helping him to earn a B- grade on civil liberties from the California Civil Liberties Advocacy organization. Even more significantly, Dodd strongly opposed recent legislation that gives farm workers overtime and wage protection; a piece of legislation that Yamada had supported since 2010.
Mariko Yamada, a social worker for over 40 years, has a record of public service dating back to the mid-1970s Prior to being elected to the State Assembly in 2008, she was elected to the Yolo County Board of Supervisors in 2003. In the Assembly Yamada compiled a stellar record of accomplishments consistent with her lifelong commitment to the causes of social justice and civil rights. During her six years in the Assembly she saw 31 of her bills signed into law including legislation that strengthens Workers Compensation; increased protections for the elderly in nursing homes; consumer protections for people buying or holding long term care insurance; conducted hearings that continued the dialogue that led to California’s End of Life Option Law; and sponsoring a bill providing for all mail ballot elections.
Among her most important assignment in the Assembly was her service as Chair of the Assembly Aging and Long Term Care committee. She was a senior member of the committees on Agriculture, Water, Parks & Wildlife and Veterans Affairs as well as being a member of the Assembly Rules, Labor and Employment, and Housing & Community Development committees.
Mariko Yamada’s record and accomplishments may be gauged by a selection of the organizations and people who have endorsed her in the Senate race. They include: The California League of Conservation Voters, the California Federation of Teachers; The California Nurses Association; Consumer Attorneys of California; the Davis Democratic Club, Davis Firefighters Local 3494, the United Farm Workers, Dolores Huerta, and many public employee unions. Indeed most of her campaign donation have come from these sources.
There will surely be many who agree with Yamada’s recent statement to the Sacraments Bee that : “the reality [is] that Dodd continues to side with corporate special interests instead of the people of this district.” Voters “need leaders who will fight for working families, not wealthy corporations.”
Dan Cornford is a Davis resident and History Professor Emeritus at San Jose State University. He is the editor of Working People of California (University of California Press).