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Sawyer leads Gorin in 1st District campaign fundraising

Published: Friday, October 5, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 7:29 a.m.

With less than a month until Election Day, the two candidates vying for Sonoma County's 1st District Board of Supervisors seat are on a fundraising and spending spree.

Santa Rosa City Council Members John Sawyer and Susan Gorin have pulled in $472,000 between them in their bid for the county seat, which encompasses east Santa Rosa and Sonoma Valley. Sawyer brought in about $295,000 of that.

Sawyer's contributions of $108,636 since July eclipsed Gorin's by almost $36,000. But Gorin had about $8,000 more cash on hand as the campaigns enter their final swing.

The large amount of money pouring into the race reflects its importance to the county's political future. It also is the only board seat on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Sawyer said his fundraising shows that he has a broad base of support, including from business interests that he said consider him the best candidate to create jobs and get the economy going.

"The fact my contributions reflect that is not surprising to me," Sawyer said Friday.

But Gorin said she has more grass-roots support and that Sawyer is taking money from interest groups she claimed are "trying to buy this election."

Campaign finance records due Friday revealed that Sawyer raised a total of $102,964, plus an additional $5,672 in non-monetary donations, since July 1, for a total of $108,636 this reporting period. That brought his year-to-date figure to $294,463, which includes a $16,300 loan.

Sawyer spent $75,623, leaving him with a cash balance of $37,180.

Gorin collected $70,129, plus an additional $2,600 in non-monetary contributions, giving her a total of $72,729. Her year-to-date figure is $177,779, which includes a $10,000 loan.

Gorin spent $38,122, leaving her with a cash balance of $45,086.

The pair's fundraising doesn't match the torrid pace of the 2010 contest between Petaluma Council Members Pam Torliatt and David Rabbitt, who by this time had raised nearly $600,000 on their way to setting a new spending record for a supervisorial race in Sonoma County. But it's still a lot of money for a county seat that traditionally has gone to someone from Sonoma Valley.

The 1st District includes the Sonoma Valley east to the Napa County line, Sonoma and the unincorporated communities of Kenwood and Glen Ellen, and eastern Santa Rosa. The district was expanded last year to include more of Fountaingrove and Bennett Valley in Santa Rosa, so that now a majority of the district's voters -- 52 percent -- reside in Santa Rosa.

Regardless of who wins, the county board soon will have a majority of supervisors who are based in Santa Rosa.

Sawyer's support from business interests since July includes three separate donations from the owners of Syar Industries in Napa totaling $7,500; $2,500 from Chavez Trucking in Dixon; $2,500 from Ghilotti Bros. Construction in San Rafael; and $2,000 from R&S Trucking in Santa Rosa.

He received $2,625 from the Sonoma County Alliance, a group of business, agriculture and labor interests; $2,625 from the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce; and $2,625 from the North Coast Citizens for a Better Economy.

California Real Estate chipped in $2,625, for a total of $7,875 that the group has contributed to Sawyer's campaign to date. The Los Angeles-based organization also poured $10,030 into an independent expenditure committee on Monday to support Sawyer, records show.

Sawyer said he doesn't know what the group is intending to do with the money. Such committees typically are responsible for funding negative ads and other methods of attack.

Gorin on Friday was critical of Sawyer accepting the group's help. "Sonoma County is not for sale. We need to make that very clear," she said.

Sawyer responded by saying that both he and Gorin were interviewed by the North Bay Association of Realtors, which he said recommended he get the money.

"She sat asking for the same money. Now that I've gotten it, she's criticizing me for it. It's sour grapes," Sawyer said.

Gorin acknowledged participating in the interview, but she said she did not do so in an effort to get a donation from California Real Estate. Asked whether she would have turned down the money, she said, "Absolutely."

Gorin also received donations from several special interest groups, including separate contributions of $2,625 each from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 595 in Dublin, and Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers West, based in Oakland.

Six individuals donated the maximum $2,625 to Gorin's campaign, among them Santa Rosa attorney Donald Edgar; Scott Mindemann, the chairman, president and CEO of Vista Broadband Networks Inc. in Santa Rosa; and Warren and Janis Watkins of Healdsburg, who each separately contributed the maximum amount.

Warren Watkins is a retired math teacher who brought a lawsuit against Saggio Hills, a luxury hotel and residential development planned for Healdsburg.

Gorin also received $2,500 from Jean Schulz, widow of the late cartoonist Charles Schulz.

Sawyer's largest individual contributors included Sonoma vintners Jeff O'Neill and Tom Larson, who kicked in $2,625 each; Wendell Trappe, owner of Forestville's Canyon Rock Quarry, who put in $2,500; and Santa Rosa architect Neil Peoples, who contributed $2,625.

Gorin had significantly more individual donors overall, including people and organizations based in Sonoma Valley. She took in $31,285 from valley sources, representing nearly half her total in the reporting period.

Sawyer, by comparison, brought in $13,200 from the valley. He said his support there is reflected by the people who have endorsed his campaign.

"Maybe she's hearing the same thing, but I'm hearing a groundswell of support coming from the valley," Sawyer said. "The fact I don't have as much financial support as she does, I can't explain it."

You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 521-5336 or derek.moore@pressdemocrat.com.

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