Gary Davis brought his local community’s agenda to D.C., and when he returned home with nothing but a “no,” he realized the only way to make an impact is to head to Washington full-time.

In an effort to make more of a difference, the Elk Grove City Councilman announced his 2010 candidacy in July for 3rd Congressional District seat currently held by Rep. (R-) Dan Lungren of Gold River.

As a Democrat, Davis must win in the 2010 California Democratic primary to face Lungren in the general election. The 3rd District extends from the California-Nevada border on the northeast to Highway 113 on the west. It includes parts of Sacramento and Solano counties and all of Alpine, Amador and Calaveras counties.

“It hit me last year to run when I went back to Washington,” he said. “Every year, the City of Elk Grove sends a Mayor and a Vice Mayor to advocate for our local priorities.

“We had had a lobbyist who gave us guidance before we left, but we also knew that Dan Lungren only accepts requests that have a strong Federal Nexus test,” he continued. “We narrowed down our list of requests to make sure that we met those tests. Elk Grove is the biggest city in the district, and the biggest city in the 3rd Congressional District, so off we went to talk to him.”

Two weeks later, when they returned, Davis, 35, said he received a letter from Lungren.

“It said, ‘I appreciate you coming up and thanks for your requests, but I am not advancing any of them.’ To me, that illustrated a fundamental and philosophical position of his that I disagree with, as well as the overall role of Congress.”

Davis says he believes that even though, “you are sent back to Washington to focus on national and international policy matters, you have to take care of your community …”

So, as a result, he launched his campaign, and he has been raising money and picking up endorsements for the 2010 election ever since.

“Running for office really isn’t rocket science,” he said, “it just requires hard work and we are talking to groups of people, talking to people directly and gearing up. It is an exciting opportunity because it is a viable seat to win because the incumbent has consistently lost support and he was almost beat the last time. We’re now in a position –because with Elk Grove and Rancho Cordova combined – we are roughly ¼ of the district and we have an opportunity to drive the dialogue and drive a debate where in the end, we also have a chance of winning.”

Before City Council

No stranger to government, Davis has served on the Elk Grove City Council for three years in various capacities, including Mayor in 2008. However, public office wasn’t always the plan when he was thinking about a career. He intended to “make a lot of money,” after he pursued a business degree.

“Not only was being a public official not a goal of mine, I didn’t want anything to do with it,” he said. “But, in my junior year of college, I got pulled in by a friend to join student government. I got involved and I realized quickly that there were some voices not being heard. I fell in love with the process and the idea of serving the public and meeting a greater need rather than just growing a pocket book.”

Davis eventually became the student government president, a position that he recalled felt good because he “beat the incumbent by four votes.”

“After a year of being the student body president in college and engaging with people in a meaningful way, my wife and I settled in Natomas after college,” he recalled. “We got involved in the community and I realized quickly that people were frustrated with the school district; the graduation rates were low, class reductions … I thought, ‘I know something about campaigns so, I sought out to recruit three candidates to run for school board. I only found two, so I became the third and we ran against the incumbents. All of us won; we walked in the door with a majority. I mean, talk about change happening fast at a local level.”

Hello, Elk Grove

By 2004, Davis and his family relocated to Elk Grove, a place that he happily calls home. Born and raised in Rancho Cordova, his full time position is for EdVoice, a nonprofit advocacy organization working to improve student achievement in California Public Schools.

Before joining EdVoice, he worked as a Program Director at California State University, Sacramento and as the Executive Director of the Sacramento State Alumni Association.

As a member of the Elk Grove City Council, Davis has helped to bring quality jobs to the community, championed the Strong Neighborhoods Initiative, reduced crime and reformed City Hall. Before relocating to Elk Grove, he also served for four years as a Trustee on the Natomas School Board.

He also said Elk Grove, like most US cities, has been hit by the poor economy, but he has a solution.

“The key to rebuilding our national economy is by doing it one community at a time,” he said. ”We are really trying to invigorate and reinvigorate the economic activity in Elk Grove. We’ve reformed our entire business approval process so that it is more efficient and it has greater transparency. Certainty is key.”

Speaking of Elk Grove, it is a community that has been in existence for more than 100 years, Davis said; however it only became a city in 2000. The bulk of its population consists of young families, and there are about 30,000 jobs, mostly in retail/service industries along with some in the medical and communications sectors.

“We have close to three kids per household on average, which is huge,” he said. “Our school district has 60,000 kids.”    

Along with his wife, Heather, Davis, who is also a father of three, said he is indeed excited, as well as getting used to the idea of the long campaign road ahead.

“It’s a lot of work and time, but we are making it work. If I do get in, the first thing that I would do as a former City Councilmember, Mayor and School Board member, would be to focus on intricately getting to know the requests and needs of every community in the district. Then, systematically, I would put a plan together to help those communities. I think having a title is only good when it can be used to do good even when it isn’t policy.”

The writer, Debbie L. Sklar is a 20-plus year journalism veteran residing in Southern California, where she is a writer, columnist and editor for many local, regional and national publications. She is a regular contributor to and may be reached via e-mail at