Filling Wolk’s shoes won’t be easy

Assemblyman Bill Dodd
Assemblyman Bill Dodd

As Sen. Lois Wolk’s time in the Legislature comes to an end, voters will be losing a legislator who inserted herself in some of the biggest issues facing her district and her state.

The Davis Democrat left her stamp on water issues, higher education and energy. She successfully pushed to allow terminally ill people to receive aid in dying rather than suffering the pain and loss of control that can accompany end of life.

A central question facing voters in Senate District 3 is whether Wolk’s replacement—most likely Assemblyman Bill Dodd or former Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada--will sit at the policy table, or be a back-bencher.

We recommend voters chose Democrats Yamada or Dodd in the top-two primary in June. Democrat Gabriel Griess, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, and Republican Greg Coppes will appear on the ballot for heavily Democratic seat. The district includes most or all of Yolo, Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties, and slivers of Contra Costa and Sacramento counties. Griess, making his first run for public office, is thoughtful but would do well to gain experience in another office.

Yamada, of Davis, was termed out of the Assembly in 2014 after three terms. Dodd, of Napa, seeks to jump to the Senate, having been elected to his Assembly seat in 2014. Dodd has not left a huge impression in his first term. Neither did Yamada during her six years in the Assembly. Yamada is a liberal former Yolo County supervisor, who has support from public employee unions. She was not known as an inside player during her Assembly tenure.

Dodd, a former Republican, was a Napa County supervisor, who occasionally votes with moderate Democrats in the Assembly. Wolk has endorsed Dodd. He’s the frontrunner based on fund-raising, having accepted money from donors with interests pending in the Legislature, especially the wine industry.

Although many California taxes are high, the tax on wine is tied for the nation’s second lowest, a reflection of the wine industry’s clout in the Legislature. Dodd and Yamada’s differing approaches is evident in their responses to a question about raising wine taxes. Dodd was uninterested. Yamada said she would consider pushing the wine tax to the national average. (The Bee hasn’t taken a position on the question.)

Wolk has been in the middle of water discussions. Yamada and Dodd say they oppose Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to build twin tunnels to move water around the Delta to San Joaquin Valley farms and Southern California cities. Dodd or Yamada will have step up their efforts to fill the void left by Wolk, but are best positioned to do so.