Davis Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk’s campaign trail for the 4th District Assembly commenced in the most apropos of locations Saturday: outside the school and near the childhood home where his own journey began.
Approximately 90 supporters joined Wolk as he officially announced his campaign — while summarizing priorities and endorsers — at Sycamore Park in Davis, next to Willett Elementary School, 1207 Sycamore Lane. He attended school there, and lived not far away.
Wolk enters the fray of a four-man competition to represent the 4th District, which spans Colusa, Napa, Lake and parts of Yolo, Solano and Sonoma Counties. If successful, he’ll be filling Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada’s seat when she terms out in 2014.
He’s the only one of the four Democrats vying for the Assembly seat that can refer to a Davis upbringing. His contenders include Mayor Joe Krovoza, Lake County supervisor Anthony Farrington and Napa County Planning Commissioner Matt Pope.
Wolk graduated from Willett and other Davis public schools before enrolling at Stanford University, and going on to receive his law degree from UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall. He was appointed to the Davis City Council in 2011 and re-elected in 2012.
During his time on the Davis City Council, Wolk cites his greatest achievements as leading efforts to adopt the surface water project, pushing for greater investment in the city’s roads and bike paths and exploring sustainable energy initiatives.
In addition to serving on the council, he was appointed as a deputy county counsel for Solano County. Wolk is also the founder of the Legal Clinic of Yolo County, a legal services provider for low-income families.
An auxiliary effect of his previous work is that it has earned him more than 60 notable endorsements, which he announced Saturday morning during the campaign kick-off.
On the short list: Former Assemblymember and Yolo County Supervisor Helen Thomson, Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto, Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig; as well as the mayors of Dixon, Fairfield, Vacaville, the vice mayor of Napa, and four former mayors of Davis.
The entire Davis School Board, along with Yolo County Superintendent of Schools Jorge Ayala, is also backing Wolk. This, he said, is a sign of a functioning working relationship, and where his priorities lie.
This was reinforced by Delaine Eastin, another Wolk supporter and former state superintendent of public instruction. She made her belief in the candidate’s ability to help reinvest state funding to schools known:
“When I graduated high school, California ranked fifth in the nation in education spending. Now, our state ranks 49th in per-pupil spending. … We need someone in office who is willing to fight for a change.”
Wolk’s father, Bruce, followed Eastin’s opening comments on Saturday with a tale that earned a chuckle from the crowd:
“This is no surprise to us,” he said of Wolk’s pursuit of the Assembly seat and a law career. “I remember when he would get accused of doing something wrong as a child that he’d request a hearing, and to see the evidence.”
And the humanization of the Davis politician continued when he took the stage; as he did his best to expound on the top priorities of his campaign while his 4-year-old, Avery, tugged on the microphone cord he spoke into.
“This is interesting with my daughter here,” Wolk interrupted his speech to say, laughing as he affectionately pulled his daughter from the podium. “But she, and the rest of my family, are really the reason I’m here today.”
Having two young daughters, Wolk said in an interview with The Enterprise, is one of the distinguishing factors from his competitors.
He expressed an appreciation for the perspective — and really, a personal investment — into the future of K-8 education.
“It shows that I’m not just talking about the next generation, I’m caring for the next generation,” he said. “And also, speaking personally, having my daughters around just helps to keep me grounded.”
During Saturday’s speech, his prominent theme was the state’s restoration. He said that this — among other things — begins with education, from elementary to the state’s college systems.
It’s a message he believes resonated with the attendees, and he hopes will continue to as he tours the other counties of the 4th District.
“A lot of the people I was talking to liked that I articulated some of their own concerns about California,” Wolk said. “They’ve seen what has happened to our schools, our public infrastructure, our economy.
“One person said to me that they’ve been down about state politics, and I said, ‘I don’t blame you,’ but they replied that my speech had re-energized them, and gotten them excited about restoring that California dream.”
— Reach Brett Johnson at email@example.com or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett