Three candidates for Elk Grove's District 3 hope second time is charm in city's first by-district race

Maureen Craft (left), Kevin Spease, and Lynn Wheat. 

For the first time in Elk Grove's 20 year history, city councilmembers will be selected on a by-district basis. As promised by proponents of the switch that the existing city councilmembers resisted, but agreed to change after the threat of a costly civil rights lawsuit, one of the two races, in particular, has drawn more participation.

This year voters in District 1 and 3 will decide who will represent their neighborhoods in city hall for the next four years. In the District 1 race, first-term incumbent Darren Suen is challenged by Ali Moua.

The most interesting Elk Grove race will be District 3, where five candidates are vying for the position. Three-term Republican incumbent Steve Detrick decided against seeking reelection after the switch to by-district in a district with a substantial Democratic registration advantage and who overwhelming voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016.

With no incumbent running, as promised by proponents of by-district voting, there is greater participation. It is worth noting that since 2010, when elections were citywide, there were incumbents who went unchallenged.   

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While those incumbents, Detrick and fellow Republican Pat Hume, will claim they were unchallenged because constituents were satisfied with their performance, the reality is running a city-wide campaign requires a six-figure campaign war chest. In both instances, there were possible candidates who demurred because they could not match the financial prowess Detrick and Hume had with major contributors, mostly real estate development interests. 

As evidenced by their campaign finance filings, the switch to by-district voting and representation has enabled the five candidates to run viable, credible campaigns with five and four-figure cash balances in their accounts. Even if Detrick had run for reelection, the cost of running a by-district race for a challenge in a smaller geographic area is far less than a citywide election, and thus, the race would be more competitive.

For three of the candidates running in District 3, the 2020 campaign is the second time they have sought elected office in Elk Grove. Those candidates are Maureen Craft, Kevin Spease, and Lynn Wheat.

For Craft, the 2020 race is the second time she will be running for the seat. In 2016, Craft, a Democratic Party member, and activist ran against Detrick.

Going into this year's race, Craft, one of three Democrats in the race (Amandeep Singh and Alejandro Duncan-Guiterrez are the others), has strengths she brings to the table. Craft has the endorsement of the Democratic Party of Sacramento County and several labor unions.

The DPSC has made Elk Grove's District 3 race a high priority to flip the district from red to blue. The party mechanism is phone banking and distributing door hangers for Craft.

As a former Elk Grove Planning Commissioner appointed by former Mayor Gary Davis in 2014, Republican Spease's first foray into politics was in 2016 when he challenged Davis. After Davis dropped out of the race, Spease, Tracie Stafford, and Steve Ly sought the seat with Ly prevailing.

Along with his planning commission tenure, Spease has high name recognition from his Rotary club activities. Spease has the endorsements of the Elk Grove Police Officers Association and Detrick.

The third candidate seeking office for the second time is Lynn Wheat, the only unaffiliated independent candidate in District 3. Wheat ran for mayor in 2012 during the first directly elected contest for that office. 

A fixture at city council and official city meetings and workshops, Wheat has an unmatched depth of knowledge of city finances and land planning issues. Unlike her 2012 run, where Wheat did not accept campaign contributions, this year, she has raised a respectable amount of money exclusively from individual small donors to wage her campaign.

Given the District 3 field has five candidates, any number of outcomes is possible and not easily predicted. It unknown if any of the five candidates have done polling, and if they have done so, findings have not been released.

Additionally, business advocacy group Region Business, who previously conducted local surveys, told EGN in this election cycle, they are not polling or actively engaging in Elk Grove elections.

Regardless of who succeeds in this competitive race, they will likely take office with a plurality, not a majority of voters. Looking forward to the 2024 race, because of that plurality, whoever wins will probably be challenged.

With that in mind, the smart elected official will be responsive, not unlike one particular current Elk Grove City Councilmember, who is loath to respond to constituents' emails, telephone calls, and concerns, will properly handle communications from constituents. If that officeholder is unresponsive to those concerns, particularly in by-dsitrict representation, that person can easily be held to account in by-district elections.

That is how it is supposed to work.    

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1 comment

D.J. Blutarsky said...

"Additionally, business advocacy group Region Business, who previously conducted local surveys, told EGN in this election cycle, they are not polling or actively engaging in Elk Grove elections"...

Well of course not, why waste their money! They already have three YES votes for their projects on Council, regardless of how the election turns out. Hume, Nguyen, and Ly are guaranteed YES, and if Singh-Allen ousts Ly, well she is endorsed by the current Council, so chalk up another YES vote. Spease is also endorsed by the Council too, and Suen is an incumbent.

Region Business (formerly known as Region Builders) is sitting in the catbird seat as usual! Proud Tradition, Bright Future, ka-ching!!

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