By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – A week after Bapu Vaitla and Gloria Partida received the endorsement from the Davis Enterprise, the release of financials shows both candidates in good position with respect to fundraising.
Through September 24, Bapu Vaitla led all candidates with $24 thousand in contributions, easily outpacing Dan Carson’s $15 thousand and Kelsey Fortune’s mere $3500.
Meanwhile, in District 4, the totals were more modest, with Gloria Partida leading with just under $10 thousand raised compared with $4475 by Adam Morrill.
As long-time readers know, I’m not a big believer that money in and of itself is a huge advantage in Davis. A candidate who has a well-organized ground campaign is generally in strong position. Too many mailers is often a disadvantage and TV ads have generally shown themselves to be ineffective.
For that reason, I generally see campaign contributions less as a show of candidate potential and more as an indicator of level of support throughout the community—particularly given the $150 campaign contribution limit.
Bapu Vaitla’s contributions from more than 200 individuals continues to demonstrate his strength as a candidate in this race. He has easily outpaced incumbent Dan Carson’s 130 contributions. Carson four years ago was the runaway winner in terms of campaign contributions. The fact that he is now a distant second behind Vaitla is another sign of potential weakness.
In the meantime, Kelsey Fortune is a very distant third in the money race.
Predicting what happens in District 1 is complicated by the fact that the incumbent Carson is facing two challengers. As we noted two weeks ago, a three-way race complicates the task of knocking off an incumbent.
In 2020, we saw two local examples. In the supervisor race, Jim Provenza was held to just under 50 percent of the vote against Linda Deos and David Abramson. In District 2 in November 2020, Will Arnold finished with 49 percent compared with 28 percent by Dillan Horton and 21 percent by Colin Walsh.
However, neither Provenza nor Arnold appeared to be particularly vulnerable. The same cannot be said for Dan Carson, who generated community criticism and anger with his personal involvement in the ballot language challenge last spring.
Earlier in the campaign he was forced to acknowledge a mistake in launching that challenge.
Two key questions then are going to be, first, how much has Dan Carson’s support eroded from his actions, and, second, how strong is the third candidate, Kelsey Fortune.
Fortune, who has taken a strong stance against DiSC and peripheral growth, has gained the support of the slow growth side of the aisle. But despite the repeated ability of slow growthers to thwart Measure J projects, it remains to be seen how well candidates can perform. Recent candidacies for slow growth candidates such as Colin Walsh and Larry Guenther, for example, have not fared well.
Kelsey Fortune in 2020, running in a different district, received about 10 percent of the vote in a four-person race. Given where her financials are falling at the moment, it is not clear that her support is that much broader.
If she polls between 10 and 15 percent, that would require the incumbent to be held below 40 to 45 percent in order for him to be defeated. If Fortune polls a great deal more, closer to where Colin Walsh finished in 2020, it would require the incumbent to be held below 40 percent.
Vaitla is clearly showing strength in the ability to earn key endorsements and attract donations from a broad range of donors—the question is whether that will be enough to knock off an incumbent in a three-person race.
In the meantime, in District 4, the path is seemingly easier for Adam Morrill, but he faces hurdles there as well.
Gloria Partida is vulnerable, primarily because she was a strong proponent of Measure H in a district that twice heavily voted against the measure.
But she doesn’t have the personal vulnerabilities that Carson has. She did not get involved in the lawsuit and was not nearly as visible in the Measure H campaign as her colleague.
She holds a solid lead in fundraising—and fundraising is probably not her biggest strength as a candidate. Rather it’s her vast network of grassroots supporters that helped carry her to victory four years ago.
In addition, her work in the community on behalf of the vulnerable may help to insulate her from an unpopular stance on Measure H. Her modest $10 thousand raised is not hugely impressive, but Morrill is struggling to raise money himself, at less than $5000, little more than what Kelsey Fortune has raised.
Given Morrill starts from a distinct disadvantage in terms of name recognition, that will make things challenging for him to top Partida.
Traditionally the community has not punished candidates and officeholders who have supported even unpopular projects. In 2005, Measure X went down to a 60-40 defeat, Ruth Asmundson was key proponent who finished first in 2006; Don Saylor and Stephen Souza, also two proponents of that measure, also were easily reelected in 2008, finishing a commanding first and second.
Since 2012, no clear slow growth candidate has won in Davis despite the fact that most Measure J projects have been defeated by the voters.