4th Assembly district race a battle of 2 counties

  • California State Assemblymember Mariko Yamada, center, attends a hearing examining agritourism, with fellow assemblymembers Susan Talamantes Eggman, left, and Brian Dahle, on the University of California at Davis campus on Thursday, January 23, 2014. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

Thanks to newly redrawn district boundaries, Napa County has a chance to put its first lawmaker in the state capitol in more than a generation.

The race to replace termed-out 4th District Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, promises to be hotly contested, featuring family connections, Democrats going head-to-head and a scramble for campaign funds.

"Nobody from Napa County has won this seat in somewhere around 35 years," said Bill Dodd, a Napa County supervisor vying for Yamada's job. "Certainly now with the redistricting and with the open primary, it's a prime opportunity for me, or somebody like me, to get elected in this district," he said.

If Dodd, a former Republican, were to win he would become the first Napa-area politician to win a seat in the Legislature since 1980, when Assemblyman Mike Gage declined to seek re-election.

Until recently, Napa County was lumped in with much larger Santa Rosa and failed to gain political traction in the Assembly. It may have a better shot under new district lines drawn by California's voter-approved, independent commission.

The Assembly district once drawn for Davis Democrats now expands westward to include Napa County and pushes north through Lake County. The boundaries took effect in time for the 2012 elections.

Dodd has a tough road ahead, with strong contenders from Yamada's home turf. Davis-area politicians with local name recognition are in the running for the open Assembly seat.

Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza and Deputy Mayor Dan Wolk — the son of state Sen. Lois Wolk — are among five contenders competing in the June primary for Yamada's seat.

Yamada has not endorsed any candidate, although there was speculation early on that she would endorse Dan Wolk. He has received support from other legislators, including Senate leadership.

Meanwhile, Yamada has set up a campaign committee to run for Lois Wolk's seat in 2016 when she is termed out. Yamada has raised about $44,000.

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