Political Mailers Show The Shifting Sands of Elk Grove Political Alliances

May 7, 2014 | It’s that time again when registered voters start finding their mailboxes stuffed with slick mailers from various office...

May 7, 2014 |

It’s that time again when registered voters start finding their mailboxes stuffed with slick mailers from various office seekers. Some of the first to arrive, at about the same time as ballot statements, was a mailer from California State Senate Candidate Dr. Richard Pan.

As part of our on-going effort to archive local political literature, we dusted off the scanner to find a remnant from the 2012 elections. This particular mailer served as a reminder of the shifting sands of political allegiances and one other truism in politics that we will return to later.

Opening the scanner, we found a mailer for then Elk Grove Unified School District Trustee candidate Steve Ly. Like many non-office holders seeking victory, Ly included photos and endorsements from prominently elected officials, in this case Elk Grove City Council Members and fellow Democrats, Jim Cooper and Gary Davis. 
In 2012 Ly was endorsed by Cooper and Davis. 

Ly went on to win a school board seat by beating incumbent Jake Rambo in a landslide victory and making local history by becoming the first Hmong-American elected to office in Northern California

At the time of the 2012 election, Davis, who was running to become Elk Grove's first directly elected mayor, shared office space and resources with Ly, who had developed a very strong network of volunteers. Part of this broader alliance included many prominent local Democrats including the aforementioned Cooper as well as California State Assembly Member Roger Dickinson.

In fact, the alliance and confidence were seemingly so strong that at the office opening event for Davis and Ly, in his pitches for Ly, and Davis in particular, Dickinson told the audience that when Davis won office, the perfect person to replace him on the council was waiting-in-the-wings. That person was Elk Grove Planning Commissioner Nancy Chaires.

Once Davis was elected mayor and vacated his council seat, Chaires, along with four others, sought the appointment for the two years remaining on District Four seat he vacated. Even though he initially supported Chaires, after several 2-2 council votes on the appointment, Davis, much to the consternation of fellow council member Cooper, succumbed to the political fear of being tagged with a $500,000 special election and threw in the towel on Chaires and went with Council Member Pat Hume's nominee, Bob Trigg.  

Since that time, the Democratic allegiances in Elk Grove have shifted.

Dickinson, whose Chaires-waiting-in-the-wings comments came back to haunt her during the appointment process, is in a tight primary race with Dr. Richard Pan to replace termed-out California State Senator Darrell Steinberg. Dickinson, along with Davis, has abandoned Chaires in favor of Ly, who along with Chaires and Daniel Jimenez are seeking the District Four Seat on the Elk Grove City Council. 

Conversely, Pan has endorsed Chaires in her bid and Cooper, who originally appointed Chaires to the planning commission, has been steadfast in his support. Ironically Ly, who formally entered the race earlier this year, spoke on behalf of Chaires during the appointment process.     

For Dickinson and Pan, the shifting alliances are nothing more than placing their bets on the candidate who can best help their campaigns. As for Davis' shift of allegiance, one can only theorize.

Ly, who won a whopping 66-percent of voters in the school board election, was certainly an eye-opener. Ly won in a district that is bigger than the City of Elk Grove in size and geography, in large part by use of an extensive, and highly-motivated cadre of unpaid volunteers.

Can Davis be angling to use Ly's dedicated volunteers for his own purposes?

It is also worth considering that should Ly prevail over Chaires and Jimenez, will Ly then be beholden to Davis' various schemes? Following the appointment debacle, other than the mutual party affiliation with Cooper, Davis really has no apparent allies on the council. 

Trigg will be gone, Hume and Detrick, who respectively has a very good chance of being reelected to a third term and is half way through a second term, are not allied with Davis. Right now, Davis is politically isolated.

Of course, Chaires' could offer benefits to Davis, as well. Aside from her extensive connections at the State Capitol, Chaires is strongly supported by local Democratic women. 

Conversely, in Elk Grove's 14-year history, there has been only one woman on the council and none for the last two years, and anecdotally, there seems to be a pent-up demand to have another [more] woma[e]n on the dais. Could it be that Davis is afraid she will outshine him, or at a minimum, not follow his lead?  

Perhaps there is something more at play for Davis. While he is not a good retail campaigner in the mold of a Cooper, Davis is nonetheless cunning and calculating. 

We saw this with his office shopping that brought him to Elk Grove from Natomas for his successful 2006 run against a very unpopular city council member, Dan Briggs. Then in 2012 with his mid-term run for mayor and the abandonment of Chaires during the District Four appointment process. 

Could it be Davis sees both Ly and Chaires as potential political threats? 

After all, Chaires has a Harvard-pedigree, has seven-plus years as a planning commission and is a woman while Ly has proven his organization is effective at getting-out-the-vote and good at retail campaigning. What better way to eliminate one potential future threat by two very strong political up-and-comers than manipulate one into running against the other.

More over, Davis could end up killing two-birds with one stone with the entry of Jimenez in the race. As the de facto Republican in the race, if he runs a decent, adequately-funded campaign, Jimenez could win a three-way race in a mid-term election that historically draws great numbers of older, white, and more conservative voters.

Of course this implies that Davis does not hold party loyalty close to his political heart. There too, he does have some history dating to 2008 when he did not endorse his fellow Democrat, Katherine Maestas, who ran against Republican Sophia Scherman for the Elk Grove City Council.

Obviously Davis will never publicly reveal why he abandoned Chaires in favor of Ly. We can only look at his history and try to connect the dots.  

Coming back to the other political truism referenced earlier, Davis' maneuvers ring true the adage about friends in politics - if you want one, get a dog.


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Jill said...

Not sure if I agree with your assessment of the mayor, but I do have to agree with you on one thing, that being the lack of female representation on the city council.

Look at our city and look at our council - five men, four of whom are white. Look at our community - is it 80% white male?

I think Nancy represents a great opportunity to have some female representation on the council. Aside from gender parity, we actually have an opportunity to have an Ivy League educated person on our council. That would speak volumes to our youth and companies looking to locate here.

Yes, there is a demand for a woman to be on the council and Nancy would be a great choice.

Sister City Coffee Bean said...

And not one of them will run on issues--just sound bites, photo-ops, and big signs.

Jughead said...

They never discuss issues other than vague things like transparency, integrity, public safety, protecting kids, etc. It is like wrapping themselves in the flag and implying that if you ask questions, hard questions, your attacking puppies, motherhood and the flag. Local elections are all about raising money to get the most frequent glossy mailers dropped. Nothing else matters. Just follow the money and it will show who will win. Remember the Hume potholders? Those things just didn't fall of the tree.

Time for a shake!

Lynn said...

It just may be voting behaviors are learned at an early age; high school. My cousin ran for high school office and her father wanted to come up with a game plan for winning. She told him she had observed how it worked; you just need a couple big signs. He went along with her plan; helped her make a couple big signs, strategically placed...and she won....Needless to say....does much change? Are our schools teaching our youth to ask questions, study issues even at the local level. But then do we as adults ask questions, study the issues. Or is it simple signs, quick lines, and great pictures. Do we as adults vote just the package? sound bites? Nancy just might be a great candidate...how about studying her voting record on the commission? Has her vote been to your liking? I will be interested in how she votes this week on planning commission. Would you vote to put a residential care facility so close to the propane tanks? This of course is being done under a rezone. I remember the fire chief speaking against placing homes so near the tanks. The unfortunate part of all the houses so close; the people buying those homes bought them trusting city leaders and home developers. Let's study the record...Oh btw some people new to the area thought they were water tanks.

Thomas A. Anderson said...

To paraphrase Will Rogers, the city council never met a pro-developer rezone they didn't like.

Gweneth said...

Let's see how Nancy votes on a 780 homes development going in on Bond and Waterman next month. There will be over 3,000 east EG votes watching that VERY CLOSELY.
Residents aren't happy with the project. If she votes for approval, may cost her the election.

Capt. Benjamin L. Willard said...

My hunch is Chaires will vote yes for that project. A no vote will reduce her potential for getting developer money and besides, who cares about the concerns of nearby residents.

It's all about developers and big money. How else will she get those slick mailers paid for?

Silent Dogood said...

I never understood the argument of "we need a woman on the council because we don't have any women on the council"

The people that should be on the council should be the people who earn that position. Whether you agree with them or not, like them or not, support them or not, they did something right to win the election.

If the voters were concerned with having a woman on the council so much we would have Mayor Scherman or Wheat. But we don't because Davis received over 49% of the vote.

As for the Harrrrvaaarrd angle. I will take a CRC graduate that is honest about their past and has the benefit of the City over personal benefit any day.

Poor Richard said...


I will not disagree with you on Harvard v. CRC angle.

Having said that, you seem to be oversimplifying the role of gender, not only in our society, but the whole world. While we don't have honor killings that are still prevalent throughout the world, gender bias is nonetheless alive and well in the US.

Should people be voted in on their skill - for sure. But really, what are local elections about? Raising capital to run a campaign and I can tell you behind closed doors, the old boy network will drop a "B" bomb on any woman who is assertive or threatening to them, and hence, they will not get funded. Funding is at the heart of most campaigns.

Not withstanding the gender aspect of it, what exactly has Mayor accomplished other than starting a bunch of self-serving non profits and hawking coffee on TV? He has been a big disappointment. At least Sophia got a sidewalk and soundwall built for her constituents.

As for Lynn Wheat, she is and was far more versed in issues, people-based solutions and eminently more qualified than Davis will ever be. Her problem was she was unwilling to accept money, and even if she did, I doubt the good old boys would have even given her a dime.
Yes, gender bias is alive and well and perpetrated by people like you who try to brush it off.

Michael M said...

I find laughable the attribution of prestige to the Kennedy School of Government.
Hell, Sonoma State and Sac State have political science departments that are adequate if not approaching greatness.
Dr. Angela Y. Davis is still affiliated with UC Santa Cruz.
Running for political office is just like shopping for clothes pins. You buy/vote for the cheapest and most expedient product.
As far as minority and women representatives, or for that matter liberal leaders, I find Pete Townsend's words most applicable: "Meet the new boss...same as the old boss!"
Michael M.

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