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Yamada in Tight Race with Fellow Democrat

Mariko Yamada with her husband, Janlee Wong, and their daughters, Midori (back) and Meilee.

Mariko Yamada with her husband, Janlee Wong, and their daughters, Midori (back) and Meilee.

DAVIS — With Election Day less than two weeks away, most voters are focused on the presidential contest. But there are critical choices for state office that are just as important for California’s future.

In State Senate District 3, which includes all or parts of the Northern California counties of Contra Costa, Napa, Sacramento, Solano, Sonoma, and Yolo and the 22 cities therein, the race has come down to an fierce intra-party fight between two different Democrats, Assemblymember Bill Dodd and former Assemblymember Mariko Yamada.

In the state’s top-expenditure June 7 primary race, Yamada was outspent by a factor of 10 to 1, with Dodd’s combined total spending just over $4 million and Yamada’s ledger showing just over $400,000 in expenditures. Despite this imbalance, Yamada entered the general contest just seven points down from her competitor, 90,396 votes (37.40 percent) to 72,243 (29.89 percent).

Republican Greg Coppes was third with 54,525 (22.56 percent) and Democrat Gabe Griess was fourth with 24,540 (10.15 percent). Griess has endorsed Dodd.

The first- and second-place finishers in the primary, regardless of party registration, advance to the November election. The winner will succeed termed-out Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis).

Yamada calls Dodd’s campaign an example of the “rise of the corporate Democrats,” citing his backing from the oil industry and charter schools. She says she would be a stronger advocate for climate-change legislation and other bills opposed by the business community; according to The Sacramento Bee, Dodd has been the beneficiary of spending by Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy, an independent expenditure funded by Chevron, PG&E and other companies.

Yamada is highlighting her opponent’s corporate ties with a website,

She also emphasizes that she is a lifelong Democrat while Dodd only recently switched parties. A former Napa County supervisor, Dodd became a Democrat and was elected to the Assembly in 2014. He announced his candidacy for the Senate just seven months into his first term.

Forced out by term limits after serving three terms in the Assembly from 2008 to 2014, Yamada, a former Yolo County supervisor, has said she wants to return to the Legislature to take care of unfinished business in such areas as aging and long-term care.

The race between former Angeleno Yamada and her Napa-born opponent remains tight, and the stakes grew higher with Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent endorsement of Dodd.

“While I have enormous respect for Gov. Brown, this doesn’t change the reality that Dodd continues to side with corporate special interests instead of the people in this district,” Yamada commented.

Dodd’s supporters include local newspapers like The Davis Enterprise and The Napa Valley Register; several labor organizations, including the California Labor Federation and California Teamsters; Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Reps. Mike Thompson, Jared Huffman and Mark DeSaulnier; Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Attorney General Kamala Harris and Fiona Ma of the Board of Equalization; and 15 state senators, including Wolk.

Yamada’s endorsers include the California Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, California Democratic Legislative Women’s Caucus, California League of Conservation Voters, California Nurses Association, Rep. John Garamendi, former Rep. Lynn Woolsey, State Controller Betty Yee, State Treasurer John Chiang, State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, former California Supreme Court Justice Associate Justice Cruz Reynoso, former State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, and 13 current or former members of the Assembly, including former Assemblymember George Nakano.

A Little Tokyo fundraiser for Yamada was planned for earlier this year but had to be postponed. Yamada said last week that it would not be possible to reschedule the event but those interested in donating can go to

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