Why Are Davis College Republicans Behind the CVRA Suit? They Aren’t Talking

Karan Brar (left in red) and JB Martinez (right in black) at this week’s council meeting

On Thursday, the Vanguard received a tip that two members on the Davis College Republicans Executive Board – JB Martinez and Karan Brar – are the plaintiffs in the CVRA (California Voting Rights Act) suit represented by Matt Rexroad, himself a Republican Political Consultant.

While Mr. Rexroad did not confirm the identities of the plaintiffs in a text message, he did not deny it either.

He told the Vanguard in a text: “If my clients decide to come forward, that is up to them.  In watching this situation play out, I see no reason for them to directly subject themselves to the political climate in Davis.”

Emails sent to the two on their UC Davis email address requesting an interview were not returned on Thursday.

All available evidence lines up behind these two individuals being the plaintiffs, and the overall involvement of the college Republicans along with Mr. Rexroad, a known Republican operative.  The question is – why?

On that, we have no answers.  Mr. Rexroad told the Vanguard that “it is extremely unlikely that either of my clients will ever run for public office in Davis.”

Notice the emphasis on Davis in his comment.  He told the Enterprise that his clients were an Asian and Latino.

Mr. Brar is the treasurer of the college Republicans while JB Martinez is the co-chair.

The two were spotted on Tuesday night at the council meeting along with a third colleague.  Bear in mind, it is mid-August, more than a month from the start of school and, as a rule, college Republicans have not been known to frequent city council meetings – particularly for issues of this sort.

One observer noted to us that not only did they attend, but they were engaged – taking photos of various slides presented during the staff report, for example.

Even before the tip, there was evidence of some sort of Davis College Republican involvement.  Two weeks ago, we ran the story on Jenna DiCarlo, the Communications Director of the College Republicans.

Her letter stood out because it seemed misaligned with Republican values.

She wrote, “When the City of Davis received notice that they have been holding illegal elections that disenfranchise voters of color, I had hoped that the legal threat would be the encouragement the city required to make needed reforms. Unfortunately, their reaction was thoroughly disappointing.”

She added, “Instead of doing what they could to rectify their mistakes and give representation to all communities of color, the city of Davis is claiming ‘they do not have time’ to fix the problem ‘in time for the 2020 elections.’”

After the fact, Mr. Rexroad told me that he did not know her.  But he did acknowledge there was a campaign of sorts to get letters to the editor.

Then there was an email campaign to council.  Three members of the college Republicans sent separate emails.

Janel Magee, Advisor to the Board wrote: “[E]lection districts provide representatives that are more equipped to represent the specific issues and need of a more concentrated section of the community rather than washing people out.”  They added: “Election districts will allow better ideological representation for the people in Davis.”

Ryan Gardiner wrote: “I am writing today to express my support for district elections and a November 2020 election. The combination of districts and a November election will encourage voter participation and provide equal opportunity to engage in the electoral process. I urge the City Council to vote for those items tonight.”

Not only was Ryan Gardiner the President of the College Republicans in 2018-19, but his Instagram shows that he works for Meridan, which is Matt Rexroad’s consulting company.

Finally, there is Michael Gofman, who most know is the immediate past President of ASUCD but he is also an ex-officio member of the College Republican Board.

He writes: “I strongly urge you to do what is right and transition to district City Council elections to ensure equal representation for all our communities residents. I also encourage you to move the date of the 2020 election to November, 2020, to ensure that equal representation happens as soon as possible.”

There was an article that appeared on December 11, 2018, in the Aggie – “The Elephant in the Room.”

Ryan Gardiner, then President of DCR, said, “Davis celebrates diversity of all different kinds, which is important and strengthens our campus.  Except the one type of diversity which Davis does not give value to is ideological diversity.”

Karan Brar was also quoted in the article, “We should be able to disagree with each other.  I believe more debates between the two parties will not only excite both conservatives and liberals on campus to attend these debates, but it will also encourage Independents and Non-Political students to attend. An active democracy is a healthy democracy.”

Is that the angle that everyone has been looking for?  The Davis College Republicans and Matt Rexroad believe that, by going to district elections, they can get a Republican on the Davis City Council?  Or is there something else going on?

One thing is clear – six college Republicans are involved here, throw in political operative and consultant Matt Rexroad and the anonymous tip and the case is strong.  The question now is why?

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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. Matt Williams

    If the speculation in this article is correct, then all the wailing and gnashing of teeth here in the Vanguard and elsewhere about the “bad acting” by Matt Rexroad becomes Emperor’s New Clothes … especially the assertions that Rexroad could have turned down the case on principle when it was first brought to him.

    If the speculation is correct, then the reason why Rexroad was chosen as the lawyer to approach becomes clear as well … and quite logical on the part of the “possible plaintiffs.”

    The answer to the “Why?” question may be as simple as “It’s the Law. Why should Davis be treated any differently under the Law than any other jurisdiction?”

  2. Ron Glick

    1. The future: The two alleged potential plaintiffs look like the future of the California Republican Party if the party wants to become relevant again.

    2. Because they could: The College Republicans have been trolling Davis since playing “Capture the Immigrant Flag.” Inviting Milo and Skreli are another example. This is the “coup de gras” or maybe simply a coup. Yet the law makes this easy.

    3. For the money: A potential $30,000 payday (or more if the CC had taken the bait) is a nice payday for a couple of college kids.

    4. For change: The current system has resulted in no college students being elected to the CC since Bob Black and no Republicans since, I believe, Stan Forbes. Perhaps they believe that this change will provide them with an opportunity for better representation.

    1. Matt Williams

      To all practical purposes Rochelle Swanson was a Republican.  She had officially changed her registration to Democrat some time before her first run for Council, but many people felt that her spirit was still Republican.

  3. Sharla Cheney

    Matt Rexroad should be ashamed of himself.  I was certain that this was not prompted by actual harm, but is just meddling to satisfy some hidden agenda.  Are these students even registered to vote here?  Remember, this is the group that supported and invited Milo to come spew his hateful rhetoric to Davis, while claiming victimization when people protested.

  4. Bill Marshall

    It doesn’t matter much why.  It is.

    All the more reason, though, not to look to expand the CC.

    We should be looking at what the districts look like, and whether a November 2020 thing is a “one-off”… where subsequent CC elections are on a ‘primary’ cycle.  David made a good argument for that (inadvertently) when he brought up the possibility of needing run-off elections, once we move to districts.

    1. Rick Entrikin

      Shocking News Break:  People in protected classes have standing as plaintiffs – even if they’re Republicans!

      I am no fan of Matt Rexroad, but blaming and demeaning him for representing two plaintiffs, who reportedly are college-age Republicans, is absurd.  If there is “blame” to be assigned, then let’s assign it accurately.

      The California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) of 2001 was introduced into the California State Senate by Richard Polanco (Democrat-LA), then Speaker of the Senate.  It was “endorsed by the ACLU and the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund.”  It was passed by the Democrat-led State Senate (22 to 13) and by the Democrat-led State Assembly (49 to 25). It was signed into law by Governor, Gray Davis (Democrat), on July 9, 2002.

      The language in the CVRA lowered the threshold from the Federal Voting Rights Act (for showing that at-large elections were harming protected classes) to such a low level that local governing bodies were essentially “guilty until proven innocent.”  And that low bar has led to payments into the millions of dollars by municipalities which have dared to defend their at-large elections.

      But now, even after the City of Davis has acceded to plaintiff’s demands, some people still choose to chastise Matt Rexroad and question the plaintiffs’ motives.  Well here are a couple of other questions:  (1) Would there have been such uproar if the letter to the City had been submitted by one of our many, local Democrat attorneys?  (2)  Since the ACLU endorsed the CVRA, why didn’t our local ACLU raise this issue with the City during the intervening 17 years? (3) IF our City Council believes that district elections will be detrimental to the future of our city, have they submitted a letter of complaint to our State Senator, Bill Dodd, and Assembly member, Cecilia Aguilar-Curry?

      I won’t pretend to know what motivated Matt Rexroad or the alleged plaintiffs and, frankly, it doesn’t really matter to me at this point.  What I can imagine, though, is a group of Republicans (young or old) sitting around and complaining:  “Yeah, the Democrats really shoved this voting rights thing down our throats.  They actually claimed that at-large elections are unfair – all of ’em – everywhere!

      Hey, what about Davis?  Do they still do at-large?  Yeah, they do.

      But they’re all Democrats.  And it’s their law.

      Hey, wouldn’t that be funny.  Do you think we could…?  Yeah, it wouldn’t cost us anything.

      Let’s do it!”

      1. Eric Gelber

        The next time the contemporary Republican Party undertakes an initiative with the primary intent to increase (rather than suppress) the voting power of minority voters will be the first time. In this instance I believe the assumption is that district elections will have minimal impact on minority voters but a potentially significant benefit to conservatives.

        1. Dave Hart

          I don’t see how they got caught “with their pants down” since this is happening in many other cities, some much smaller than Davis, probably for the same reason and it really came out of the blue.  The worst situation that is probable is we have one or two knee-jerk conservative, anti-tax, anti-government folks on a five member council and we return to the bad old days of contentious city council meetings.  Folks who are inclined to be collegial and collaborative will not have an easy time so that will also affect who decides to run.  And then, what happens to our city commissions?  Same thing?  Stacked with folks who are in lock step with their district council rep?  Not good.  Hard to see the upside.

  5. Eric Gelber

    Is that the angle that everyone has been looking for?  The Davis College Republicans and Matt Rexroad believe that, by going to district elections, they can get a Republican on the Davis City Council?

    Bingo! I’ve proffered this theory before, but let me be clear: It’s the demographics, stupid.

    I believe the immediate impetus for the timing of this action was the voters’ approval of WDAAC. It created the perfect opportunity. One of the primary demographics of the GOP is older voters. Republicans are more likely to be ages 55 and older (57%) than are Democrats (49%) or independents (41%). (https://www.ppic.org/publication/california-voter-and-party-profiles.) So, if there were a geographical district with a relatively high concentration of older residents, it would likely be more conservative than the City as a whole. Throw in a local buyers’ preference, and that  district may also be whiter, another demographic that leans Republican. (An overwhelming majority (77%) of Republican likely voters are white.)

    In general, creating districts with higher concentrations of minority voters means that other districts will be correspondingly whiter. That alone could benefit Republicans in Davis. But that effect will be even greater because in a few years we’ll be herding a large concentration of Davis’ statistically more conservative voters into one compact geographical area.

    1. Ron Glick

      It all depends on how the lines get drawn and the clients have little influence over that. A simpler explanation, if you want to argue this is motivated by political power, is that the clients  believe they will have a fairer process or better representation with district elections.

  6. Craig Ross

    Fascinating.  So the Vanguard implicates about six or seven College republicans in this little thing.  A few weeks ago people were shocked and appalled that the communications director was dragged into this, seems like she was probably part of it from the start.

    Rexroad thinks we don’t deserve the real scoop though – too bad.

    1. Ron Oertel

      Craig:  “I guess the “adults” in the community . . .”

      Do you consider yourself an “adult”?

      Also, why is it that you have essentially suggested that you speak for all students, when you apparently don’t even speak for the ASUCD president?

      And if you’re going to describe “antics”, might you explain what you mean by that?

      1. Craig Ross

        I put “adult” in quotes to differentiate older residents from students.

        What did I say to lead you to believe that I speak for any students other than myself?

        If you Google Michael Gofman, UC Davi, you will get an earful.

  7. Alan Miller

    That’s some good digging there, DG.

    As I said a few days after this broke, I spoke to a person in-the-know (very much with a pulse on things) who said this was a way for Rexroad & friends to get a Republican on the Davis CC.

  8. Alan Miller

    Such a bizarre article/photo paring cluster-F in Friday’s Enterprise on the change to district elections.  It shows Gloria and Lucas high-fiving each other under the headline “Council votes unanimously for district elections”.  But the caption belies the photo to be well over a year old.  Still gives the impression of great celebration at being forced into district elections.  Weird photo choice!

  9. Alan Miller

    I don’t like judging people by their ‘looks’, but since it came up that there was an Asian plaintiff, could someone please ‘spot the Asian’ in the photo?  I guess since percentages don’t matter regarding protected classes according to DG, it could be anyone.

      1. Alan Miller

        Aaaaaaaa . . . thanks.  Makes sense.

        I’m behind on my race-labeling education.  I need to go by the Avid Reader and get “Race Labeling for Dummies”.

        1. John Hobbs

          “I’m behind on my race-labeling education”

          So narrow. It’s the twenty-first century. There’s an ever expanding universe of traits to label, fear, mock, envy and hate. Collect and trade ’em all. Remember haters, Trumpistan wont last forever. Mock ’em while you can!

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