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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Thursday Briefs: A look at the 5th Senate District Race and More

A look at the 5th Senate District Race

From yesterday’s column, Davis Enterprise Columnist Bob Dunning appears to be calling the race for current Assemblywoman Lois Wolk.

Writes Dunning:
“SACRIFICIAL LAMB … wow, was that a scary headline or what? … you know, the front-page, above-the-fold, double-bold beauty that said "Republican gears up for Senate run," and featured mug shots of the Republican, Greg Aghazarian, and a Democrat by the name of Lois Wolk … is this guy off his rocker or did he lose a bet and this is the way he has to pay it off? … if Lois wants this job, she's a lock …”
Perhaps the “Wary One” has simply confused this with the 8th Assembly District that Assemblywoman Wolk currently holds which is indeed a safe Democratic seat. The 5th Senate District, if one might recall, is anything but a safe seat for Democrats.

In 2004, incumbent Senator Mike Machado had to stave off a furious challenge from Stockton Mayor Gary Podesto to eke out a narrow 52.2 to 47.8 win. A race that for most of the election was a complete toss-up and Machado was widely viewed as endangered. He managed to stave off the challenge by making the case that Podesto was too conservative for the district.

While it is true that the district has around a 12 percent registration advantage for Democrats, many of those are more conservative valley Democrats rather than the more liberal Democrats of Yolo County and particularly Davis. Though Wolk is not a typical Davis liberal, it might be easy to paint her as one to voters in the southern part of the district.

Greg Aghazarian is a sitting Assemblyman who will have the full backing from the State Republican Party because this is one of the few seats that are in play—especially with no incumbent in the race and possibly two legislators squaring off. This will be a hard fought battle for the Democrats to hold this seat.

However, before we get to November 2008, we might want to look at June of 2008. Because there is a formidable opponent awaiting Wolk for the Democratic Nomination. That is current UC Merced Vice-Chancellor John Garamendi, Jr. His father is currently the Lt. Governor of the State of California. Garamendi, Jr. has strong ties to Davis and Yolo County as well. His father represented the area when he was State Senator. And Garamendi, Jr. has resided in Davis himself.

Garamendi has let it be known that he will be a candidate and he will announce sometime early this summer. In the meantime, it appears that unions and other interests are quietly lining up behind him. Wolk has been scrambling for the last four months for endorsements.

This will be one of the toughest primary challenges we will see in the state and with a 25,000 vote registration advantage in the part of the district which Wolk does not represent, it is not clear that this is hers to win. She is certainly far from a lock. Stay tuned…

Update on the DHS Situation

In a letter dated May 1, 2007, Davis Senior High School Principal Michael Cawley informed parents that the teacher involved in the Malcolm X Poster incident has now taken a leave of absence. The teacher had previously with the backing of the DHS contingent of the DTA requested that the student be moved to another class. The district has apparently denied that request and now the teacher has refused to teach.

With the AP Calculus Exam pending, the school is making several tutoring sessions available to students during lunch and after school in an “effort to ensure students receive extra time and support necessary to be successful on their upcoming AP exams…”

This situation has still not been put to rest and I must now question the leadership of the Principal and Vice Principal who have apparently failed to bring the situation to a more amicable conclusion. It is my opinion that a good Principal could have stepped in long ago to allow both the teacher and student to return to class. At this point, we also have to question the judgment and maturity of the teacher. It was clear from the beginning that the situation was poorly handled by the teacher and administration; however, to allow this to continue is irresponsible. The school board and superintendent need to begin to quietly ask the tough questions as to why this has continued for as long as it has.

Good Quotes in Response to “Illegal Immigration Capture the Flag” Game

Davis Enterprise Reporter Claire St. John has written an excellent piece covering the ill-fated and ill-advised “Illegal Immigration Capture the Flag” Game by the Davis College Republicans on the UC Davis Campus.

There were two outstanding quotes, one by Babajide Olupona, a UC Davis student who went to Davis High School and served as youth commissioner to the HRC:
"The thing about it is, as a student out here, the idea of having this (game) on this particular day and during La Raza Cultural Days shows how narrow-minded these people are," said fourth-year sociology and African American studies student Babajide Olupona. "I really thought this was a joke. I can't believe this."
And UC Davis Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef, himself a target for some of the May Day protests in Davis:
"I was very disappointed that a small group of our students yesterday attempted to play an 'Illegal Immigrant Capture the Flag' game," Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef said in a statement e-mailed this morning. "In my view, it was clearly disrespectful and violated our Principles of Community.
You can read these Principles of Community here.

One that stands out in violation:
“We affirm the right of freedom of expression within our community and affirm our commitment to the highest standards of civility and decency towards all.”
Chancellor Vanderhoef is exactly right, the counter-protest did not adhere to those standards of civility and decency. This was clearly a case where a group of people were treated without dignity and civility and the Davis College Republicans not only deserve criticism, but as many pointed out, probably hurt their own cause by performing a game that would have been more likely to alienate and anger, than build bridges of understanding. Whose mind would they have changed by playing this game?

I believe deeply in the right to free speech and I wish they would have been allowed to play their game. But I also believe in the right to criticize and ridicule people’s choices for modes of expression. This one was not a good one and it deserved to be criticized. I hope that the organizers can learn from this experience, but from the quotes, it seems all they can see is that their rights to expression were violated rather than what they perhaps could have done differently next time to be a more effective voice for their own cause.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting