Brett Lee Out, Will Arnold and Rochelle Swanson Are Back In

Vanguard photo from 2010 Election Night: Will Arnold is checking the latest returns and Rochelle Swanson sees she will be elected to the Davis City Council

In this new era of district elections, council races are going to take on new dynamics.  This week saw a major shuffling of the deck with the announcement of a major departure but also two familiar faces coming back to the fold.

The dominoes—rumored for several weeks—started on Tuesday when, late at night, Brett Lee stated, “I am looking forward to serving out my term until November, and looking forward to seeing who will represent the newly-formed District 2.”

He indicated that he had announced at this point he was not running, but he did not return texts or a phone call for additional comment.  Brett Lee was twice a surprising officeholder — in 2012, he surprisingly finished third to claim the third seat in an election that also saw Dan Wolk and Lucas Frerichs elected to the council, bouncing out longtime councilmembers Sue Greenwald and Stephen Souza.

Then, in 2016, Brett Lee finished a commanding first in the field to become the mayor for the last two years.

While Brett Lee is out, Will Arnold, who lives in the same district, is now back in, after it was widely believed he would be exiting the council.

In a statement to the Vanguard, Arnold said, “I do plan on running for a second term but my focus right now is entirely on the two big challenges our city is currently facing, the coronavirus and redesigning our public safety system. I will have an official campaign announcement in the days ahead.”

This week Will Arnold announced an initial policy recommendation to restructure the Davis Police Department.

In an op-ed in the Vanguard, Arnold called for “the reimagining, redesigning, and repurposing of our public safety system in Davis, including a fundamental transformation of our current structure as we know it, and the beginning of a new, sustainable approach to community safety.”

He wrote, “I propose we begin this effort by changing the name of our Police Department to the Department of Community Safety, and committing to a mission of justice, equity, dignity, guardianship, community partnership and reduction of violence.”

Left to right. Justice Harry – DSIS 2013, Rochelle, Mason Harry DSHS 2008, Cameron Swanson DSHS 2020.

Finally Rochelle Swanson announced this week she is returning to the fold after a two-year absence.  She served on the council from 2010 to 2018.  But now she is returning to run for the open South Davis seat.

In a statement to the Vanguard, she said, “After much soul searching, consultation and reasoned consideration, I have decided to run for the District 5 seat on the Davis City Council. I’ve come to this decision following a two-year hiatus from the Council where I served from 2010–18, because I am called to help our beloved city address critical issues in these challenging times.”

Rochelle Swanson wrote: “I am incredibly humbled by the community members who have reached out requesting I reengage in proactively representing and advocating for Davis. Among them are my three sons who have grown up here and graduated. South Davis has been my home for all but 10 years of the nearly three decades that I have been fortunate to live here.

“I am excited to bring South Davis to the table and I look forward to engaging with all neighbors from Olive Drive to Montgomery Avenue, and all the places between. Districts are changing the way Davis votes for its city council members and I am inspired by this new chapter, not just to make more room at the table, but to intentionally encourage all community members, regardless of locality and residence, to engage and feel welcome.

“That said, I do not believe districts preclude engaging the city at large, as issues don’t just affect a district, they impact all of us. We must move forward together.”

Swanson continued: “Because I come to this historic election with eight years on the dais, I’ll be able hit the ground running. I also promise to look at each issue with fresh eyes reflective of our community’s current circumstances and future priorities. Today’s issues reflect a society on the cusp of real change. It is heartening to see, not just regional and national action but, communities across the globe engaging on the challenges we face.

“In 2010 I formed my priorities through a listening tour, I plan to do the same now. Albeit, virtual and physically distanced.”

That sets up some interesting races—though we caution that the filing period has yet to open.

The one race we have not talked about is two-term incumbent Lucas Frerichs who will be challenged by Larry Guenther, who ran in 2018 as well.

At this point, there are no other announced candidates to run against Swanson, but there are some rumors as to potential challengers.

And Will Arnold will now face Dillan Horton and Colin Walsh in his district.

—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. Ron Glick

    “And Will Arnold will now face Dillan Horton and Colin Walsh in his district.”

    I count all three of these guys as my friends but I’m going to support Will Arnold.

    Will led on Cannabis reform, was against getting rid of the claw, has supported providing more help to the homeless and building housing amidst our current shortage. His thoughtful statement on police reform shows where he wants to go in a second term.

    Of all the votes I’ve followed over the last four years I’ve found I agreed with Will more often than anyone. Therefore I whole heartedly support and endorse Will Arnold for a second term on the Davis City Council.

  2. Alan Miller

    Of all the votes I’ve followed over the last four years I’ve found I agreed with Will more often than anyone.

    A little hard to follow Colin and Dillan’s votes, since there weren’t any.  Incumbent advantage.

    But what do I care about what happens in some OTHER district in Davis?  So far away, not my problem.

    Although, the future Rochelle District is visible from my kitchen window, just 75′ away. If the Rochelle District burns, the embers could set my roof on fire, so I do have a stake in that region of Davis. How much is a moat? Could we build moats between the districts?

  3. Ron Glick

    Incumbency is a doubled edged sword. Four years ago not having a record gave Trump an advantage. This time having a record to run on likely reduces his chances.

    In Will’s case there is much to like about his voting record.

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