The running man

David Hyatt, write-in candidate

photo by alec moreno

When Rancho Cordova's David Hyatt received his sample ballot in the mail for the upcoming June 3 primary election and saw that three of his locally elected representatives were cruising to unopposed re-elections, he got an idea: In the spirit of democracy, why not oppose them? “They need competition,” he said. “If, for nothing else, so they feel slightly obligated to say where they stand.”

In particular, it bothered the soft-spoken Hyatt that Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones and Assessor Kathleen E. Kelleher didn't submit candidate statements for their automatic bids. But Hyatt is also eyeing Supervisor Don Nottoli's unchallenged seat and hoping his unlikely bid as a write-in candidate inspires daughter Shahera Hyatt, the 28-year-old director of the California Youth Homeless Project, to also enter politics. “I've always wanted [her] to run for public office,” he said. “I think she'd be great for it.” Asked if this is his way of leading by example, Hyatt laughed. “Well,” he said, “[as it] turns out.”

Do you have any campaign strategy in mind?

In terms of getting more votes? Well, to tell you the truth, this all started about three days ago. (Laughs.) So I know it's way late now to get started, but I've already learned quite a bit about what it takes to go about doing this, and, like I said, maybe give my daughter a little incentive to look toward the future. It's actually illegal to run for more than one office.

So you’re the renegade candidate then?

(Laughs.) Well, I'm not qualified for sheriff. Between the other two, Don Nottoli was elected in 1994. Surprisingly enough, three of his races since then, he's been unopposed. He's only been opposed in 1998 and 2010.

He’s had an easy run.

Yeah. You got to think, what keeps him motivated? That paycheck must be pretty good. (Laughs.)

I think it’s almost $100,000 for county supervisor.

Plus all the benefits after being there for 20 years. I'm not saying he's a dishonest man.

The county assessor makes $150,000. And then the sheriff makes a little more than $200,000. Which office would you prefer?

Now that you mention salary (laughs).

Another thing that kind of tweaked me about these three is Don Nottoli, in the sample ballot, he put a statement in there. Neither [Jones nor Kelleher] did. They didn't even bother. So that's kind of irksome, you know?

What makes you the best candidate?

I'm a thoughtful candidate who cares. My opponent Don Nottoli said he was willing to fund all these different programs that over the years have had their problems. I'm not sure he really is looking toward the future or is just settling for his own comfort. Twenty years is a long time to work in one spot, although the occasional election helps your ego a little bit, I imagine (laughs). Especially if you're unopposed.

It sounds like you’ve watched his choices pretty closely.

Sure. I think a lot of people don't realize how much voting actually affects their daily lives. They think it's some faraway thing. It's not.

With these three, if you weren’t running, who would you write in as a candidate?

That's a good question. I do know people who would be qualified for that sort of thing. A guy I used to work for in the [audio-visual] business, … he owned an [audio-visual] company and had a good head on his shoulders, as far as business.

And then I guess your daughter would be one?

I should have said that right off the bat. I always think of her in a higher office, though (laughs). I guess you got to start off somewhere. She doesn't seem to be so interested in it right yet. But she's a great person, has a great personality.

Do you think you might write in a name?

I do think I might write in a name. I think it'd be more effective to vote for someone already on the ballot, just in the fact that at least they're going to get a few votes.

Does that keep politicians honest?

Well, I hope so. I think that's the whole point of opposition. Sometimes you hear about a politician like [Sen.] Ted Cruz or the skinny guy out of Illinois talking about these lopsided things, these tea-party things. They're so right-wing, but not everybody in their district is right wing.

And there’s nobody pulling them the other direction.

There's nobody pulling the other side of it, right. I think that's why there should be compromise in politics, because no one ever wins with 100 percent [of the vote].

Would that be your campaign slogan—you’re “the compromise candidate”?

That's not too bad.

Would you recommend that other people start campaigning as write-in candidates?

Yes. Certainly. If nothing else, failure is one step toward success, right?