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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Commentary: Lack of Solano Candidates in Assembly Race a bit Vexing

There was a good article first run in the Fairfield Daily Republic on Monday and then run in the Davis Enterprise last night (Tuesday) on the 8th Assembly campaign and the lack of Solano County Candidates.

When the 2008 election occurs, it will have been 12 years that the 8th Assembly District seat has been held from Yolo County and unless something dramatically changes, that pattern may yet continue in 2008 as Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada (Davis) takes on West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon.

Two-thirds of the voters in the district reside in Solano and not Yolo County. That advantage is somewhat reduced in a Democratic primarily where Yolo County is more heavily Democratic than Solano County and Yolo County voters come out in a higher percentage most of the time.

For example in 2002, the last time there was a contested primary in the 8th Assembly District and the last time the seat was open, just under 20,000 people voted in Solano County. Just over 16,000 people voted in Yolo County. There was still an advantage in Solano, but it was less than 4000 votes. Whereas Solano County had a 67% advantage in voter registration, it only had a 17.5% advantage in voter turnout.

Steve Hardy, the Solano County resident, did finish first in Solano County. But he only prevailed by 1700 votes over Lois Wolk and by 2900 over Christopher Cabaldon. In Yolo County however, he got wiped out receiving only 1925 votes whereas Lois Wolk received just under 8500 and Cabaldon just under 6000. Thus Hardy won small in Solano on his home turf so to speak but lost big in Yolo and finished third with 27.8% of the vote district wide to 41% by Wolk and 31% by Cabaldon.

The article interviews several Solano County officials and finds a general lack of interest by prominent officials in seeking a higher office.

First, Steve Hardy decided not to run this time after getting appointed head of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
“I was holding up the parade, waiting to see if I got this appointment, but that's been three months and nobody has sallied forth... I wish they would. I believe there are a number of very fine candidates from Solano County that could have entered the race and they all chose not to.”
Vacaville City Councilwoman Pauline Clancy also declined to run.
Longtime Vacaville City Councilwoman Pauline Clancy said she has been approached in the past about her interest in seeking a higher office. She has declined and believes other county officials have made similar decisions.

“I've been asked many, many times to run for higher office and I have said I can do the most good for the citizens at the level that I'm at,” she said. “I have no desire to go to Sacramento in that quagmire.”
Solano County Supervisor Jim Spering:
“Among elected (officials), we all talk about it quite a bit,” said Solano County Supervisor Jim Spering, who spent 20 years as mayor of Suisun City. “I don't know that I know the answer, but it's not that it doesn't go without discussion.”
He goes on to say:
Given Solano's size and prominent, high-growth location between Sacramento and the Bay Area, Spering said he expects the county to the assert itself politically, although he added it was probably too late for someone new to become competitive in the 2008 Assembly race.

“At some point ... I think you're going to see a groundswell in local representation in the state Legislature,” he said. “Right now, Solano County hasn't politically matured to that point.”
One potential clue into the reason for the dearth of candidates aside from just shear coincidence might however be that Solano County has been well represented in the Assembly regardless of the home county of their Assemblyperson.

Fairfield City Councilmember Jack Batson applauded currently Assemblywoman Lois Wolk for "doing her homework" on Solano County before her 2002 campaign.
“Lois has made herself visible for every possible occasion here... Before she ran, she was here asking lots of questions and I think she was pretty much up to speed.”
That visibility probably helped her narrow the gap enough in Solano County that she was able to off-set Hardy's advantage there with a very strong performance in Yolo County.

It is probably not too late for someone to join the race, however, they will face two candidates that have been campaigning and raising money since January. Already, Cabaldon's campaign has raised over $370,00 while Yamada has raised $140,000.

Nevertheless at some point you have to look at this as a market situation. If Solano County felt that they were being shorted in terms of representation, the politicians in Solano would put up a candidate and the voters would be clamoring for a Solano County candidate. That again does not seem to be happening.

So for now, Solano County is the sleeping giant, a fast growing county whose vote is split into two Assembly Districts but who has not asserted its power and strength even in a District where it holds an edge in terms of voter registration. Will it wake up this cycle or will it wait another six years to be heard? Only time will tell and a lot of that may have to do with how Cabaldon and Yamada are perceived. Outside of a few elected officials that have endorsed primarily Mayor Cabaldon, it is not clear just how much is known about either candidate.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting