Jim Provenza is seeking his fourth term for county supervisor, but this figures to be his most difficult race—for just the second time he faced competition, and this time, unlike in 2008, he faces a November runoff, having fallen just short of 50 percent.
Both candidates seem confident in their chances in November, even though no one knows what a campaign will even look like at that point.
Jim Provenza told the Vanguard in a phone interview last week that, despite the runoff, he feels confident he will prevail.
But the math is tricky and the entire race is now scrambled by the COVID-19 pandemic that figures to change people’s priorities. Jim Provenza finished about 10 percentage points ahead of Linda Deos, but a third candidate David Abramson made a surprisingly strong showing, with 14 percent of vote.
For Linda Deos, who ran for city council and finished third in 2018, she is optimistic that many of those votes that went to David Abramson could now go to her.
Jim Provenza told the Vanguard, “I knew it was going to be close,” noting that in 2008, the last time he was contested, “I avoided a runoff by about 50 votes last time. This time with a stronger third candidate—David Abramson actually did very well at 14 percent, I think we ended up 242 votes short of the 50 percent mark.”
But he noted, “I was substantially ahead of my closest opponent.” He said he was hoping to have avoided the second election. “The chances I think are very good,” he said. “My record speaks for itself. I have a lot of support in the District. I’ve dealt with all of the issues that have come up.”
Linda Deos said, “I’m incredibly honored to have gotten such a high percentage of the vote. I think I exceeded expectations—not of my campaign, but I think of others.”
She said that she believes many of the votes which went to David Abramson will now translate to her. “I thought that at the beginning of the race, and I continue to think that way.”
Linda Deos said that she attributes her success thus far to “my message to the voters.” She said, “I think it was very clear that I was presenting a picture for the future. I kept talking about what more can we do.
“Jim was all about the past,” she said. She said that he didn’t offer a vision for the future other than “let me keep doing,” and she asked “keep doing what?” She said, “He didn’t offer that picture. I think voters want to hear a vision.”
A big issue, she said, was “change.” She explained, “I heard so much, people want change.”
Ms. Deos found that change resonated far more than the gender issue. She said, “It was more we need change. That was evident from 2016 forward.”
Jim Provenza told the Vanguard that a lot of the voters were really engaged, “and housing was a major issue for people.” He said that, as the result of the primary election, people are more familiar with what the board does “and I think we’ll be able to get into a deeper discussion of where to go and what the issues are.”
But even if you accept that voters wanted change, the split was very close. Linda Deos and David Abramson finished with a combined 51.57 percent of the vote with Jim Provenza receiving 48.43 percent.
And now with COVID-19, does that change the calculation and priorities of the voters?
If this becomes more of a referendum of who is better prepared to handle the current crisis, Jim Provenza could have that edge.
“I think the community is aware,” Jim Provenza said of a lot of the work he’s done before and during the crisis. “I’ve received substantial support across the community.”
He noted that, while people had concerns over issues like traffic on Mace, he said, “I think people were happy it was being addressed.”
Most people, he said, recognized that this was a city, not a county issue, but were pleased that the city and county were working together on a solution.
Jim Provenza noted that they were already working on homeless issues with the respite center and, now, “with this crisis we were able to ease right into he emergency, and lease hotel rooms… right now it’s around 120 rooms.”
He said that some counties are struggling to find rooms, “and Yolo eased right into it.” He said, “I’m really proud of the work we’re doing.”
Linda Deos remains focused on change.
For Ms. Deos, change looks like “a more involved supervisor.”
She said, “The change I am looking for, we have emergency housing for the homeless. Let’s keep that going.”
She said they’ve eliminated cash bail—“let’s keep that going.”
She noted that with people staying off the roads and working from home, “I can see the stars a lot better than I used to. The air quality, all those things—why can’t we work on that going forward?”
Linda Deos is talking about change. Jim Provenza is talking about continuing the work he believes he is already doing to provide relief to the community in the wake of this crisis.
“There is going to be a lot of ways to engage in the community in a way that is helpful,” he said. noting the need to tap into federal loan programs and other such relief efforts. “What can we do to help people navigate through that.”
Another issue that he is concerned about is evictions. Jim Provenza points out that the courts have already put off evictions during the crisis.
But Mr. Provenza points out that “essentially they are not going to allow any evictions during the period of emergency and 90 days after. There is a need for an ordinance because you don’t want people evicted the day after the emergency ends.”
A big question is going to be what a campaign even looks like.
Linda Deos said, “I truly haven’t thought about what kind of campaign this is going to be.” She said, “That’s very down on my priorities right now.”
Jim Provenza also said he hadn’t determined when he would reengage on the campaign trail.
“Right now I am working almost exclusively on the issues related to the stay at home order and COVID-19,” he said. “I am working on the relief fund.” He believes that they should have an action plan ready for their meeting this coming Tuesday.
One candidate told the Vanguard that COVID-19 could change how campaigning will occur. It may be, if the threat persists, that no one will want candidates knocking on their door.
“That could be,” Jim Provenza said, “it will really depend on how long this goes. I did knock on a lot of doors. It’s possible that it’s a different type of communication in the fall.”
The biggest questions, therefore, are still up in the air and perhaps out of the hands of the candidates themselves.
—David M. Greenwald reporting