City Hall

Bret Daniels’ election to city council called ‘a shocker’ by Citrus Heights leaders

Bret Daniels
Bret Daniels, pictured during a September candidate forum, won election to the city council on Nov. 8.

Updated Nov. 14, 5:40 p.m.–
Donald Trump’s victory was not the only surprise in Tuesday’s election. From “surprised” to “shocked,” Citrus Heights city council members and community leaders weighed in with their reaction to candidate Bret Daniels winning election to the council on Tuesday.

Daniels himself said he was surprised at his big win, having been outspent 3-to-1 by several other candidates and also having lost twice before in city council races in 2008 and 2012.

Wow. I’m still a little shocked,” said Daniels in a comment to supporters on his campaign Facebook page the morning after the election. He later told The Sentinel he “ran exclusively on a social media campaign and signage,” without door-to-door walks, phone banking, or direct mailers.

That lack of campaigning is what Councilman Mel Turner said surprised him about Daniels’ win. “I knew how much work he didn’t put into it,” said Turner. The veteran councilman said when elected in 2010, his own campaign walked 1,500 homes and won, while candidate and current Planning Commissioner Rick Doyle reported walking 4,000 homes this year and lost to Daniels.

Turner, as well as the entire city council and most planning commissioners, had all endorsed Doyle. Both Doyle and candidate Marcel Weiland, reported raising over $10,000 — but both lost to Daniels, who reported raising just $3,100.

“It was a shocker — a big shocker to everyone,” community leader Tim Schaefer said of Daniels’ election day win. Schaefer was also one of the eight candidates running for council this year, but he and Daniels found common ground on several issues, like questioning the $21 million new city hall expense, and mutually endorsed one another during the campaign.

Schaefer placed fifth with 12 percent of the vote, Weiland and Doyle each took 14 percent of the vote, and Daniels took 19 percent of vote. Incumbent Jeff Slowey was the only one to top Daniels, receiving an expected win with just over 24 percent of the vote. Both were elected to four year terms on the five-member council.

Outgoing councilwoman Sue Frost, whose seat will be filled by Daniels, was also surprised, but said “voters have elected Bret and I look forward to working with him.” Frost won’t be personally working with Daniels on the council, but after winning her race for Sacramento County supervisor on Tuesday she said she’ll be in discussion with City leaders about policy and issues.

Councilman Steve Miller, while “a bit surprised,” offered some insight on how Daniels won. He attributed name recognition, a crowded race, and the open seat left by councilwoman Frost as key factors in the results.

Daniels’ strong social media campaign and large signs on heavy traffic streets also likely helped his campaign — and his vocal position against Measure B could have also attracted voters leery of a tax increase.

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Daniels undoubtedly has name recognition, having served on the Citrus Heights city council from 1999 until he resigned in 2005 while going through a divorce. His name has also been on the ballot over the past decade for various other campaigns, including two attempts for city council in 2008 and 2012, running four times for Sacramento County Sheriff since 1998, and most recently running for water district director in 2014.

In an email to The Sentinel, UC Davis Professor Matthew Lesenyie, who specializes in voter and campaign finance research, confirmed the significance of name recognition in local nonpartisan races — where voters lack Republican or Democrat labels next to a candidate name listed on the ballot.

“For those who do vote, their decision could be as simple as name recognition (e.g. Have they come in contact with the name before?),” the professor wrote in his email. “Recent experiments have shown that yard signs can be pretty effective at reinforcing name recognition.”

His past and the future
Daniels, 56, does carry some baggage from his prior service on the council, having been the only council member to vote against the formation of the Citrus Heights Police Department in 2005. Since then, the department has been widely praised for reducing costs and crime, compared to the prior police services contract the City had with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.

Daniels was also fired from his position as a Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy in 2000, after the department said he lied during an internal affairs investigation relating to whether he accessed a law enforcement database for personal use. Daniels said he disputed the charges against him and believes the firing was ‘politically motivated’ by then-Sheriff Lou Blanas. Two years prior to the firing, Daniels had run against Blanas for county sheriff.

Now that he’s been elected back to the council, Daniels said he plans to deliver on his campaign promise to improve public safety, quality of life, and “economic vitality.” During his campaign, he also advocated removing all red-light cameras in Citrus Heights, proposed no-cost building permits for homeowners, and said more patrol officers are needed on the streets.

Daniels said he will have a campaign victory party on Dec. 9 at Stones Casino, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.