Sen. Lois Wolk has left some big shoes to fill for her successor, either Assemblyman Bill Dodd or former Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada. The Davis Democrat, who termed out this year in District 3, has been a commanding legislative voice on water policy and the environmental interests of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, as well as a champion of California’s new aid-in-dying law.
Neither Dodd, in his first term in the Assembly, nor Yamada, in her six years there before facing term limits, has been as impressive as Wolk. But there will be an opportunity to shine as the senate regroups from the loss of a number of termed-out trailblazers, including Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills. We believe Dodd has the better chance of making a difference, if he steps up his game.
This is the only truly contested legislative race in the Sacramento region, and it’s a close call between two members of the same party. The difference between Dodd and Yamada isn’t so much about policy. They have similar concerns about similar issues, from pensions to water, and similar prescriptions for solving them.
This choice is more about style and Dodd’s willingness to zig when others assume he will zag. For example, he supports repealing the death penalty and believes there should be a policy for releasing police dashcam videos, even though he has the endorsement of several law enforcement groups.
A former Napa County supervisor, Dodd announced his bid to jump ship for the Senate only seven months into his term in the Assembly. He says it’s because he wants to get things done.
“The caucus is much smaller,” he told The Bee’s editorial board in May. “You don’t have to have a leader who has to herd cats.”
Dodd and Yamada have similar concerns about similar issues, and similar solutions. But Dodd has the endorsement of the governor and outgoing incumbent, and the better chance of making a difference as the senate regroups.
Since his election to the Assembly in 2014, Dodd has proven to be an independent voice. A Republican turned moderate Democrat, he’s fiscally conservative and socially progressive. On this year’s climate change legislation, for example, he voted in favor of extending the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals, despite his support from numerous business groups.
He also voted against the hotly contested farmworker overtime bill, earning the gratitude of farmers. But Dodd still managed to snag a number of labor endorsements, including the California Teamsters, California Labor Federation and AFSCME California.
Historically, public employee unions have been Yamada’s go-to supporters. In the Assembly, she was a reliably left-leaning voice. Her priorities reflect her progressive base in Davis, though, like many a world-weary social worker, she feels the death penalty should remain intact, and plans to vote against both repeal and streamlining the process. And she has prioritized legislation on aging and long-term care in anticipation of the “silver tsunami” of retiring baby boomers.
But the district extends far beyond Davis, including most or all of Yolo, Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties and slivers of Contra Costa and Sacramento counties. As a former Napa County supervisor, Dodd could give the less-urban parts of the district a stronger voice.
Both oppose Gov. Jerry Brown’s twin tunnels project to ship water south from the Delta. Both say it is fiscally unsound and suggest exploring more options for storage, and ramping up recycling measures and desalination projects. Interestingly, though, Brown endorsed Dodd, saying he would help stabilize education funding and balance the state’s budget. Wolk also has endorsed him. With those kinds of recommendations, so do we.