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Dems battle one another in AD4

A Californian casts a ballot. (Photo: Vepar5 via Shutterstock)

Democrats are traversing the 4th Assembly District, seeking support in a sprawling district that stretches from the Bay Area to Sacramento and even further north into the Sacramento Valley and North Coast mountains.

The big money from Sacramento hasn’t dropped in yet and might not, depending on whether special interests feel they have a candidate they really want.

In a game of musical chairs, Dodd is running for Senate with the support of Lois and Dan Wolk, against state Sen. Lois Wolk’s rival, former Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis), and in return Dodd has endorsed her son, Dan Wolk.

Although term limits for the Assembly have been extended from six to 12 years, the 4th District is facing two, back-to-back, open-seat elections because Assemblymember Bill Dodd, D-Napa, who was first elected in 2012, has decided to run for the overlapping Senate district.

In a safe Democratic district, four Democrats and one Republican have filed.  The Democrats all reside in Yolo County and include Winters Mayor Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, biotechnology professional Dr. Elmer Mark Kropp, Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor  and Davis Councilmember Dan Wolk.

Wolk is a returning candidate who missed making the general election run-off in 2014 by two percentage points. In that race, Dodd faced Republican Charlie Schaupp and easily defeated him in this district, where Democrats typically receive over 60 percent of the vote.

If Schaupp is again the sole Republican on the ballot this time around, it is likely he will make the runoff because the four Democrats will split the vote in June.  The real winner in this race likely will be the Democrat that prevails in June and sails to an easy win in November over Schaupp.  The filing deadline for candidates is March 16.

In a game of musical chairs, Dodd is running for Senate with the support of Lois and Dan Wolk, against state Sen. Lois Wolk’s rival, former Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis), and in return Dodd has endorsed her son, Dan Wolk.

To complicate things even further in the small hamlet of liberal Davis politics, Saylor endorsed Wolk for this seat in 2012, but this time around feels his experience makes him better qualified.

Since Wolk ran in this district before, he can rely on some name recognition from the last election, along with familiarity with his name from his mother, who has served in elective office in Yolo County for years.

Dan, the mayor of Davis, has endorsements from all five supervisors in vote-rich Napa County, as well as endorsements from the mayors in Napa County – including the City of Napa, American Canyon, Yountville, St Helena and Calistoga.

Yolo County and Napa County each make up about a third of the district, with the final third split between Sonoma, Solano, Lake, and Colusa Counties.

The 4th Assembly District. (Ballotpedia)

The 4th Assembly District. (Ballotpedia)

Aguiar-Curry and Saylor are both making their first run for Assembly and Saylor is currently in the lead with money.  At the end of last year, Saylor had $117 cash on hand, Wolk had $77K cash on hand and Aguiar, who entered the race last, had $56K cash on hand.

Political pundits are waiting to see if any of the big-moneyed special interests will throw their weight behind a candidate.  Wolk has received the support of the CTA and Saylor the support of SEIU.  So far the Moderate Democrats and the Chamber of Commerce have not gotten behind a candidate, but that could change after the filing deadline.  Aguiar-Curry, as a farmer and self-described fiscal conservative, could be angling for their support.

“All three candidates adhere to Democratic values, though it seems that Wolk and Saylor from their answers at forums have more progressive answers.  Both Dan and Don are strong defenders of public employee rights,” said Bob Schelen, chair of the Yolo County Democratic Central Committee.  “I think Cecilia is focusing a lot more on local issues, local agriculture, and city government issues.”

“If they all continue on the current trajectory and no special interest is stepping in and picking a favorite, then Wolk should carry the day,” said Matt Reilly, Dodd’s political consultant and chief of staff to former Assemblymember Pat Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa).  “But if one of them separates themselves on fundraising and-or IE’s, the dynamic changes significantly.”

Without any major highways going from one end of the district to the other it can take a few hours to traverse.

All the candidates are focusing on the records as local elected officials.  Wolk is campaigning on his record on the Davis City Council, specifically with an initiative he calls “Renew Davis”.  He has worked on key issues, including economic development, fighting global warming with clean energy, creating healthy communities, and reinvesting in roads, parks, and pools, issues that he wants California to address and invest in.

Wolk also likes to point out he is the only candidate who is a parent with young children, and has dealt with rising college tuition and raising two young children with his wife during the Great Recession.

“I come from a different generation and I think that I personally have experience with issues that are critical to California’s future,” said Wolk.  “When I was at UC Berkeley law school my tuition doubled the year I was there.  Now I am saddled with significant loans I am now paying off.  My wife went to grad school at UC Davis, and she is saddled with loans.  I am personally experiencing these issues you see in California.”

Saylor has extensive experience in government, spending his career as a policy expert and over two decades as a local elected official on the Davis School Board, Davis City Council, and now a Yolo County Supervisor, far longer than any of his opponents.  He got his start as a planning intern in 1975 in northeastern Wyoming.  Saylor would like to focus on agriculture, food security, education, health care delivery, transportation infrastructure, and create public transparency and accountability of the budget process.

“The fact I have elected experience in a school district and county government sets me apart” said Saylor.  “County government is an arm of state government for health care employment, social services, and criminal justice issues.  I’ve been involved the delivery of health and human services programs and it has been a focus for me and it has been a challenging time with the downtown in funding.”

Aguiar-Curry is from the smaller town of Winters in Yolo County, while her two main Democratic opponents reside in Davis, which is ten times larger.  She is crisscrossing the district speaking about the small towns, rural communities, and the importance of agriculture in the sprawling district.  Without any major highways going from one end of the district to the other it can take a few hours to traverse.  She is part owner of the family farm her father started, a fiscal conservative, and believes she will bring unique experiences to the table as the only minority and woman in the race.

“I think we are fortunate that we have four strong candidates that are vying for this position,” said G. Anthony Phillips, chair of the Napa Valley Democratic Central Committee.

“In a small town you don’t have a large staff.  Like many rural committees if you aren’t at the table you can’t get any money.  I figured out you have to be at the table,” said Aguiar-Curry.  “Luckily SACOG (Sacramento Area Council of Governments) is my second staff.  When I have funding or I want to go after grants they have always worked with me and my city manager and staff.  They will come over to us and walk us through a grant.”

Kropp ran as a Republican for the state Assembly in central San Diego, a reliably Democratic area in 2000. He has since changed his registration to Democrat and said he will not take any special interest money.

“I’m eligible to start collecting money, but I am reluctant to go down that road,” said Kropp.  “I’m very cautious how money influences people.  I will be representing the 4th assembly district so it will be what’s best for our district.”

At face value, all the Democrats sound acceptable to many activists and it’s hard to say how their voting records, if elected, would differ significantly.

“I think we are fortunate that we have four strong candidates that are vying for this position,” said G. Anthony Phillips, chair of the Napa Valley Democratic Central Committee.

“I don’t think there is anything glaringly different.  I see them as being very similar and very strong.  I think it’s going to be tough.  The endorsement process went to the convention, because there was no endorsement at the pre-endorsement conference.”

Ed’s Note: CORRECTS date in 5th graf of Dodd-Wolk race to 2014, not 2012, and ADDS endorsements for Davis Mayor Dan Wolk, 10th graf. 

 


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