Commentary: Large Money Raised in School Board Elections

Richard Harris Amasses a Stunning Amount of Money in Campaign Funds

The financial records were released on recently on amount of money raised by the various school board candidates, and Richard Harris has raised nearly $23,000, the other three candidates combined have raised $22,868.

School board races in Davis unlike City Council races have no campaign finance limitations. Therefore individuals have no limitation as to how much they can give a candidate nor is there a limit on how much money could be raised.

Much of Richard Harris’ money comes from out of the city of Davis. In fact, a good portion comes from Sacramento area lobbyists, which makes a good deal of sense since Mr. Harris works as a lobbyist in the Sacramento are lobbyist firm, Nossaman law firm. Among some of the more notable contributions from Davis were donations from Dennis Lindsay, owner of Nugger Market, John Meyer a vice chancellor at UC Davis and a former Davis city manager, Craig Reynolds a political consultant and Lois Wolk’s chief of staff, Robin Souza, wife of Stephen Souza, Lynne Yachzan who along with Randy Yachzan owns property in the NW Quadrant, Shoshana Zatz, a rural development specialist and wife of Luke Watkins of the Neighborhood Partners.

The second place candidate in the money race is Susan Lovenburg who received around $13,000 in contributions. Some of her more notable contributions included $250 from Kirk Trost who is a layer with Miller, Owen, Trost but perhaps better known as the chair of the Best Uses of Schools Task Force (Jan Bridge who was a key member of that group as well is one of her key advisers although she does not appear among the itemized $100-plus donors). Also among her donors were two past school board members John Munn and Marty West. Also in-kind contributions from Sheryl Patterson and school board member Keltie Jones.

Bob Schelen took in around $8000 including money from former state Senator John Burton, but also a number of donations from local residents including: Greg Cook, Bill Julian, Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada, Robin Souza again, Shoshana Zatz again, Joyce Trujillo, Jerry and Teresa Kaneko, Bill Strong, James Burchill, and Alvin and Sandy Sokolow.

Holding up the rear in a distant last place was the late starting campaign of Joe Spector who had only $1500 in the bank, although they are planning to raise a lot more than that according to people close to their campaign.

There are a few essential points that need to be made here. First, having seen the campaign materials from particularly Richard Harris and Susan Lovenburg, it appears clear at this point that they are planning for some sort of mailing blitz in the last month of the campaign. One thing to watch at this point will be whether Bob Schelen–who spent a tremendous amount of money on his ill-fated city council bid a decade ago only to get very few votes–will make use of his years of Sacramento experience and attempt to match Richard Harris in the last month.

Secondly, the amount of money being dumped into a local school board race is a bit stunning in my opinion, particularly the amount of money dumped in from outside of district. On the other hand, it does appear much of that money coming in is due at least in part to years of work in Sacramento. It is far from clear that this represents an attempt by outsiders to buy a Davis school board seat. Moreover, I honestly am not sure what they would do with such a seat if they had it. I suppose it is up to the individual voters as to whether the amount or source of the money has an impact on their view of the candidate.

Third and I think most interestingly is when you look at the names of at least the $100 donors, one has to ask where the progressive community is in this race. One simply does not see names of members of the progressive community. If one examines city council disclosures or the No on X disclosure, they will see a whole host of names that are simply nowhere to be found in the school board races.

One of the wild cards in this election will be the issue of Valley Oak and the Valley Oak charter school. Joe Spector has tied himself very closely with the folks supporting Valley Oak and those organizing the charter school. At the Farmer’s Market, Joe Spector has played his instrument along side the Valley Oak Dragon “Dwezel.” Bob Schelen has also been an unbashed supporter of both keeping Valley Oak open and supporting the efforts of the charter school with regards to a career and technical program. On the other hand, Susan Lovenburg supported the decision to close Valley Oak, is supported by Kirk Trost and Jan Bridge, key members of the Best Uses of Schools Task Force. She did go to the Charter School Meeting and has said she is open to see what the Charter proposal is. Richard Harris, also supported the closing of Valley Oak and has suggested that he is not in favor of the Charter School there.

The city of Davis was clearly split on that issue. An active and vocal group lobbied to keep the school open. However, another group was outspoken in believing that the school district simply did not have enough enrollment and resources to keep it open. When the district polled the support of Valley Oak for a parcel tax, the results were not encouraging towards getting the two-thirds needed to approve a tax, on the other hand, the numbers were close to 50-50, which would indicate that if people voted simply on that issue, it might be a close outcome.

How Valley Oak impacts the school board race and Measure Q is anyone’s guess. But with a month to go, it appears at least in terms of money raised, there are two clear leaders.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

Author

  • David Greenwald

    Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Categories:

Elections

184 comments

  1. Dear “DougPaul”, Thank-you for your feature article on the massive out-of-the-community cash harvesting being done by candidate Harris for the school board. This obscene amount of money being generated for a school board race is dwarfed only by its souce. Where is the outrage from the progressive community? This is a man, while bashing the teachers for speaking out about the sad state of their negotiations by calling for a “cooling off period” is bringing in huge sums of cash from lobbyists, lawyers, land developers and career politicians. Do you think there is any link to his “developer democrat” friends and the interests of the school district in dumping “surplus property” for “infill”….let’s start connecting the dots…follow the money….Do you think closing Valley Oak School has anything to do with relocating the school district office operations and selling off an entire city block in the core area? What will happen to Nugget fields now that the lease to the soccer groups has expired? And how about Grande Ave? How many apartments will this 8 acres hold? No measure J votes needed for these developments, folks……Why do you think Souza, Saylor and Asmundson support Harris and Lovenburg for the BOE. It’s not just about education, it is about allies….

  2. Dear “DougPaul”, Thank-you for your feature article on the massive out-of-the-community cash harvesting being done by candidate Harris for the school board. This obscene amount of money being generated for a school board race is dwarfed only by its souce. Where is the outrage from the progressive community? This is a man, while bashing the teachers for speaking out about the sad state of their negotiations by calling for a “cooling off period” is bringing in huge sums of cash from lobbyists, lawyers, land developers and career politicians. Do you think there is any link to his “developer democrat” friends and the interests of the school district in dumping “surplus property” for “infill”….let’s start connecting the dots…follow the money….Do you think closing Valley Oak School has anything to do with relocating the school district office operations and selling off an entire city block in the core area? What will happen to Nugget fields now that the lease to the soccer groups has expired? And how about Grande Ave? How many apartments will this 8 acres hold? No measure J votes needed for these developments, folks……Why do you think Souza, Saylor and Asmundson support Harris and Lovenburg for the BOE. It’s not just about education, it is about allies….

  3. Dear “DougPaul”, Thank-you for your feature article on the massive out-of-the-community cash harvesting being done by candidate Harris for the school board. This obscene amount of money being generated for a school board race is dwarfed only by its souce. Where is the outrage from the progressive community? This is a man, while bashing the teachers for speaking out about the sad state of their negotiations by calling for a “cooling off period” is bringing in huge sums of cash from lobbyists, lawyers, land developers and career politicians. Do you think there is any link to his “developer democrat” friends and the interests of the school district in dumping “surplus property” for “infill”….let’s start connecting the dots…follow the money….Do you think closing Valley Oak School has anything to do with relocating the school district office operations and selling off an entire city block in the core area? What will happen to Nugget fields now that the lease to the soccer groups has expired? And how about Grande Ave? How many apartments will this 8 acres hold? No measure J votes needed for these developments, folks……Why do you think Souza, Saylor and Asmundson support Harris and Lovenburg for the BOE. It’s not just about education, it is about allies….

  4. Dear “DougPaul”, Thank-you for your feature article on the massive out-of-the-community cash harvesting being done by candidate Harris for the school board. This obscene amount of money being generated for a school board race is dwarfed only by its souce. Where is the outrage from the progressive community? This is a man, while bashing the teachers for speaking out about the sad state of their negotiations by calling for a “cooling off period” is bringing in huge sums of cash from lobbyists, lawyers, land developers and career politicians. Do you think there is any link to his “developer democrat” friends and the interests of the school district in dumping “surplus property” for “infill”….let’s start connecting the dots…follow the money….Do you think closing Valley Oak School has anything to do with relocating the school district office operations and selling off an entire city block in the core area? What will happen to Nugget fields now that the lease to the soccer groups has expired? And how about Grande Ave? How many apartments will this 8 acres hold? No measure J votes needed for these developments, folks……Why do you think Souza, Saylor and Asmundson support Harris and Lovenburg for the BOE. It’s not just about education, it is about allies….

  5. Let’s remember, in the past a number of school board members ran for and won political positions either on the Davis City Council or County Supervisor. The School Board has been an important stepping stone in the political careers of Ruth Asmundson, Helen Thomson, and Don Saylor to name a few. Perhaps this is why so much money is being spent now by some school board candidates – they are looking to future political office – and others, who might not want to run for a political office, just have to raise as much to level the playing field in this race.

  6. Let’s remember, in the past a number of school board members ran for and won political positions either on the Davis City Council or County Supervisor. The School Board has been an important stepping stone in the political careers of Ruth Asmundson, Helen Thomson, and Don Saylor to name a few. Perhaps this is why so much money is being spent now by some school board candidates – they are looking to future political office – and others, who might not want to run for a political office, just have to raise as much to level the playing field in this race.

  7. Let’s remember, in the past a number of school board members ran for and won political positions either on the Davis City Council or County Supervisor. The School Board has been an important stepping stone in the political careers of Ruth Asmundson, Helen Thomson, and Don Saylor to name a few. Perhaps this is why so much money is being spent now by some school board candidates – they are looking to future political office – and others, who might not want to run for a political office, just have to raise as much to level the playing field in this race.

  8. Let’s remember, in the past a number of school board members ran for and won political positions either on the Davis City Council or County Supervisor. The School Board has been an important stepping stone in the political careers of Ruth Asmundson, Helen Thomson, and Don Saylor to name a few. Perhaps this is why so much money is being spent now by some school board candidates – they are looking to future political office – and others, who might not want to run for a political office, just have to raise as much to level the playing field in this race.

  9. Harris’ candidacy has brought Davis'”dark underbelly” into the Davis School Board race simultaneous with our being asked to ratify Measure Q. My plan is to vote for Schelen and Spector and No on Measure Q. Measure Q-2 will come before us at the earliest opportunity for ratification and a NO Q vote would make even Harris,if elected,take notice and respond to the voters who have Measure Q veto power.

  10. Harris’ candidacy has brought Davis'”dark underbelly” into the Davis School Board race simultaneous with our being asked to ratify Measure Q. My plan is to vote for Schelen and Spector and No on Measure Q. Measure Q-2 will come before us at the earliest opportunity for ratification and a NO Q vote would make even Harris,if elected,take notice and respond to the voters who have Measure Q veto power.

  11. Harris’ candidacy has brought Davis'”dark underbelly” into the Davis School Board race simultaneous with our being asked to ratify Measure Q. My plan is to vote for Schelen and Spector and No on Measure Q. Measure Q-2 will come before us at the earliest opportunity for ratification and a NO Q vote would make even Harris,if elected,take notice and respond to the voters who have Measure Q veto power.

  12. Harris’ candidacy has brought Davis'”dark underbelly” into the Davis School Board race simultaneous with our being asked to ratify Measure Q. My plan is to vote for Schelen and Spector and No on Measure Q. Measure Q-2 will come before us at the earliest opportunity for ratification and a NO Q vote would make even Harris,if elected,take notice and respond to the voters who have Measure Q veto power.

  13. Susan Lovenburg is supported by John Munn (Republican) and is supported by Matt Rexroad (Republican). See any connection here? Don’t vote Republicans into non-partisan offices, as they are stepping-stones for higher office. Why give them the experience and make us have to deal with their ideology in the meantime?

  14. Susan Lovenburg is supported by John Munn (Republican) and is supported by Matt Rexroad (Republican). See any connection here? Don’t vote Republicans into non-partisan offices, as they are stepping-stones for higher office. Why give them the experience and make us have to deal with their ideology in the meantime?