Commentary: Some Election Day Local Picks

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

By David M. Greenwald

I don’t envy the job of national prognosticators, but at least they get polls to help guide them on calling a national election during a volatile and unsettling time.  The remarkable thing about the national election is how unbelievably stable it has been for months.  So either the polls are completely wrong or we have a pretty good idea who will win.  That’s all I will say on that.

On the local front, we don’t have polls for the most part – so we have to gauge the results by level of support or on ballot measures, level of opposition.

Supervisor: Jim Provenza

This race – boy it seems like a long time ago that we got the results in early March from the County Supervisors race – was surprisingly close in March pre-COVID.  In a three way race, it ended up being a ten point divide with Provenza in the lead, but under 50 percent.

Then the world changed and I think the COVID crisis ends up helping Jim Provenza a lot – he has the experience and the background with county social services.  Linda Deos may have had a shot over the summer when social justice issues dominated, but those have ebbed and while there might be a lot going on in the background, right now this campaign looks invisible to me.

Given that, I will go with the incumbent prevailing.

Council 2: Will Arnold

Both Colin Walsh and Dillan Horton ran hard in this one.  I think Colin Walsh is going to make this much closer than anyone thought back in July.  He has been on the ground, he has had a lot of letters to the editor.  But it’s hard to see that he has broken out of his base.  Certainly if you look at the endorsements a lot of them are base-endorsements and many not in his district.

His list of six former Mayors is impressive, but no one current.

Besides, it’s hard to knock off incumbents.  Since 2000, three incumbent councilmembers have lost in Davis.  There was Mike Harrington in 2004.  Then there was Sue Greenwald and Stephen Souza in 2012.  In 2004, Harrington was the victim of one of the biggest dirty tricks in recent history with the Giadaro broadside.  In 2012, you could argue Sue Greenwald was harmed by a hit piece by the unions and her husband getting caught stealing signs, but in the end, both Greenwald and Souza were two term incumbents who had angered large volumes of people and the voters were looking for a change.

It is worth noting perhaps that Walsh has the backing of both Harrington and Greenwald.

We just don’t see that kind of anger focused at Will Arnold.  He is running for a second term.  He has a broader base of support than either Walsh or Horton.  He has a long history in this community (as does Walsh).

It will be closer than people thought, but Arnold will prevail.

Council 3: Lucas Frerichs

This one I don’t see as being that close.  Larry Guenther runs a second time, but I don’t see him making the kind of inroads that Walsh made and I also don’t see Frerichs being vulnerable.  He raised a ton of money – though I tend to discount money in Davis races.  He has avoided some of the questionable votes that have drawn public ire.  And he seems to have emerged largely unscathed.

Prediction: Lucas Frerichs by a wide margin.

Council 5: Rochelle Swanson

This one on paper looked most competitive – four candidates.  Two as real threats to win.  Josh Chapman as I said earlier in the race might have been a favorite in an open race, but Rochelle Swanson is a quasi-incumbent and her strong track record will make it hard.  For the most part, Rochelle Swanson is receiving across the board support from the establishment while Chapman is backed largely by Supervisor Saylor and a contingent of downtown business owners.

There is always uncertainty when you go from at large to districts, but it seems that Rochelle Swanson just has a deeper level of support.

Measure D: Renewal of Measure J

I just don’t see support for Measure J’s renewal going under 70%.  There was no organized campaign against, there are a few individuals who have opposed it and some have been vocal, but at this point it seems like the safest bet to win overwhelmingly.

Measure B: No

This one is the change.  I have moved my call from lean yes to lean no.  Though it wouldn’t shock me either way.

This is the hardest call I am making today and it’s pretty tricky in a lot of ways.  For one thing, the DISC campaign intentionally ran a relatively low key campaign – calling and identifying supporters rather than a high profile, heavy media campaign.

But we have a lot of observation about what certain outcomes look like.  In 2005, Measure X was the only game in town and it was an intense, high profile, very heavy controversial campaign.  In 2009, Measure P – Wildhorse Ranch – was a virtual bloodbath from day one.

Both of those measures went down overwhelmingly and we just don’t see that level of acrimony.

On the other hand in 2018, Nishi and WDAAC were both low key affairs, there was not much opposition outside the core group of supporters.  They both passed easily.

Up until the last month, I had DISC as narrowly passing because it looked a lot closer to 2018 then pre-2010.  But in the last month there have been some higher profile efforts at opposition, the opposition seems to have outweighed the supporters in the letters to the editor section, and so it feels different from 2018 and probably closer to 2016 when Nishi lost narrowly.

But even here there are caveats.  Nishi’s loss was aided by opposition by students based on the lack of affordable housing.  We are not sure how many students will vote locally -another key factor – but those who do are likely to favor the project.

For the most part, the DISC campaign has been overshadowed by the council races in the letters to the editor section and by the presidential race overall.

This one could go either way, but in the last month it feels like the ground has shifted to the no side.

—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. Keith Olsen

    So either the polls are completely wrong or we have a pretty good idea who will win.  

    I agree with all of your picks but you might be in for another kick in the Johnson if Trump can ram through another last minute sensation.

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