I understand everyone’s desire to wait to see the ballots counted before declaring winners, but the reality is that there is actually more science than art in projecting elections at this point. Unless you have a hugely disproportionate sampling of ballots from a specific location, the results of the late ballots are, generally speaking, not going to diverge widely from the results of the ballots that came in on Election Day.
Thus our conclusion the morning after the election was that the results from the city council were unlikely to change much from the 3AM announced vote count. We did think it was possible that Dan Carson and Gloria Partida could change places at the top – after all, it was a relatively narrow 244 votes that separated the two. However, even there, the trend on Election Day was Gloria Partida pulling ahead of Dan Carson, and so I actually expected the lead to widen rather than narrow.
That is precisely what happened. The lead for Gloria Partida grew from 244 to 383. More importantly, from the standpoint of predicting the next council, the gap between Dan Carson and Linda Deos is now 1500 votes.
My estimate is that there are another 3000 to 4000 out there for Davis – that’s assuming the last sampling continues, which saw 10,000 more counted overall with 4000 for Davis, which mirrored the 40 percent or so of the vote that Davis represented on Election Day.
Fifteen hundred is too big a gap to overcome, probably even in a one on one race. In a nine-person race with two votes, it is close to impossible, not just improbable. Just to get 1500 votes in the last batch seems improbable itself. Linda Deos got 3580 votes total out of 15,000 votes. That means just around 23 percent of the voters voted for her. To get 1500 even from 4000 (which is on the upper end of the remaining votes), she would have to get 37.5 percent of the vote.
That’s not impossible by itself, but that’s just to get her 1500, which doesn’t close a 1500-vote gap on Dan Carson, who will undoubtedly gain more votes also.
Bottom line is that I think it is safe to say that the next two council people will be Gloria Partida and Dan Carson. Most likely Gloria Partida will be the next mayor pro tem, which means in 2020 she will become mayor.
My real purpose in writing this column was not the projections of who will win, but rather what this means.
I have been doing this since 2006. In fact, July 30 is the 12th anniversary of the founding of the Vanguard. The first five years that I observed the Davis City Council, from January 2006 until June 2010, the council majority of three really dominated policy discussion. Once that cartel was broken in 2010, things began to change.
What has surprised me is that the biggest factor since 2012 has been who is mayor. In 2014, we saw Joe Krovoza exit the council and Robb Davis arrive. On paper, you would not expect a huge difference between the two and therefore you would argue that the council from 2014 to 2016 would be similar to how it was from 2012 to 2014. In fact, that turned out not to be true.
The biggest change was the mayor switched from Joe Krovoza to Dan Wolk and that completely changed how the agenda was set, how the meetings were run, and even the priorities of council.
The same thing happened in 2016. Dan Wolk left the council and was replaced by Will Arnold. Again, you wouldn’t expect a huge change. Will Arnold was Dan Wolk’s campaign manager, for crying out loud. But the council from 2016 to the present has been very different, and the key change was Dan Wolk to Robb Davis as mayor.
That is really a surprising observation because you would think that Davis would have an extremely weak mayoral system. After all, the mayor is not separately elected. The mayor does not have individual staff. The mayor has no special powers.
The big change is therefore ceremonial. And, in fact, we know that a lot of the change is probably simply council deference. We did not see a huge change from when Sue Greenwald was mayor from 2006 to 2008 than when Ruth Asmundson was mayor for a second time from 2008 to 2010. Why? Because the same three members of council dominated the council and had the votes to win every major contested issue.
But since then we have had a less adversarial and more collegial council, and deference matters. Style matters. Agenda setting matters.
So I will argue that the big difference from the current council to the next council will be in the mayor. Robb Davis and Brett Lee are very different. This is not meant as a critique on either, but I think we will see very different styles at the dais. Robb Davis has been a very strong leader, he has a strong passion for justice, he has led with a kind of moral authority that we have really not seen before, and he goes out of his way to attempt to be fair to all involved.
That is not to say that Brett Lee lacks those things, but I see him as much more laid back. He is analytical and intellectual. Sometimes I will criticize him for overthinking things, but he also has the ability to think outside of the box and attempt new approaches to issues.
How that will play out as his role shifts after six years on the council to being mayor is really anyone’s guess. What I am saying here is I expect that to be a huge change.
There are clear differences between Robb Davis and Brett Lee on many issues, although the council has largely operated more on a consensus basis, attempting to avoid conducting business on 3-2 votes.
I expect that approach to at least attempt to continue.
I would point out that we should not downplay the impact of two new councilmembers. This is only the third time since I have covered the council that we will have two new members coming in. What actually happened was that, from 2010 to 2012, the entire council turned over. So Lamar Heystek and Ruth Asmundson in 2010 were replaced by Joe Krovoza and Rochelle Swanson. Don Saylor then stepped down to be county supervisor and Dan Wolk replaced him. Then Lucas Frerichs and Brett Lee defeated Sue Greenwald and Stephen Souza in 2012 to complete the transition.
This will then be the first time in six years we have had two councilmember changes.
Dan Carson and Gloria Partida figure to be very different in both emphasis and style from Rochelle Swanson and Robb Davis. We will see how the new mix works.
One thing I have learned is, until we can see the council in action, how they interact and the issues that come forward, it is hard to predict what the council will look like. I don’t think that Dan Carson is radically different from Rochelle Swanson in substance, but he might be in style. The same goes for Robb Davis and Gloria Partida.
And a big difference will be Mayor Robb Davis being replaced by Mayor Brett Lee.
—David M. Greenwald reporting