Supervisor vacancy sparks wide interest
Published: Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 1:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 2:46 p.m.
North County Supervisor Mike McGuire's sudden decision not to run for re-election has created an opening for more than a half-dozen potential candidates lining up to succeed him.
The list includes some surprises, like Santa Rosa City Council member Erin Carlstrom, who acknowledged Wednesday she may not run against McGuire for State Senate as previously announced, but instead seek his vacant county seat.
Others who said they are weighing a run for McGuire's Fourth District seat in next year's election include Windsor Councilwoman Debora Fudge, who lost at two previous supervisorial runs, and Windsor Councilman Steve Allen, who could be the lone Republican in the non-partisan race.
Cloverdale Vice Mayor Carol Russell also says she is giving “serious thought” to a run for McGuire's seat.
Healdsburg City Councilman Tom Chambers also joined the growing list, saying Thursday “I'm pretty serious” about potentially pursuing the job, which pays $134,000 annually.
Oscar Chavez, a Windsor School Board member and assistant director of Sonoma County Human Services, said he is in the “exploratory phase” of whether to become a candidate in the race.
James Gore, a former U.S. Department of Agriculture appointee in the Obama administration who recently moved back to Sonoma County, said Wednesday “I'm thinking about it and seriously considering it.”
So far, only two people are definite: former Healdsburg Mayor Pete Foppiano, a real estate and loan broker, confirmed he definitely will run.
And Keith Rhinehart, a past dark horse candidate for supervisor in 2012 in Sonoma Valley's First District before he dropped out of the race, took out candidate papers this week.
“I can confirm I'm running,” said Rhinehart, 60, a former United Parcel Service supervisor and substitute teacher who now lives in Wikiup.
Would-be candidates have time to decide. The deadline to file for the June primary election isn't until March 12.
But typically, candidates will try to line up endorsements and campaign contributions well in advance, helping to ward off potential rivals.
McGuire's decision to run for the Second District Senate seat changed the usual political calculus.
In August, he kicked off his re-election campaign for supervisor and was considered a shoe-in with a $160,000 war chest and a reputation as an indefatigable campaigner.
But just over two weeks ago, McGuire announced he was running instead for the state legislature - for the Second District Senate seat that opened as a result of the decision by Santa Rosa Democrat Noreen Evans not to seek re-election.
McGuire's strong prospects for the state Senate may have caused freshman Santa Rosa Council member Carlstrom to reconsider her previous announcement to run for the same Senate seat.
On Wednesday, she said supporters had asked her to consider running for McGuire's seat, but she had not made a decision.
Carlstrom, a 30-year-old attorney, said she is focusing on her month-old baby boy and her duties on the Santa Rosa City Council.
“I have a lot of options right now,” she said. “I have to have a lot of conversations with my family and supporters about that (running for supervisor).”
Carlstrom lives in the Junior College neighborhood, which is not in the North County district, so she would need to move to run for supervisor.
But she said the lease on her home is expiring and she and her family will be relocating, and it could be to the Fourth District, which includes northwest Santa Rosa where she used to live.
The north county district includes northwest Santa Rosa, the unincorporated Larkfield/Wikiup area and extends all the way to the Mendocino County line, taking in the cities of Windsor, Healdsburg and Cloverdale.
A successful candidate could easily end up spending $250,000, especially if that person doesn't capture a majority of the vote in the June primary and has to enter a run-off in the November general election.
“It could be from rock bottom of maybe $150,000, to $200,000-250,000, or more,” said Cloverdale Councilwoman Russell, 69, a retired businesswoman.
Foppiano, 59, said “you have to raise enough to be competitive,” estimating that could be as high as $300,000.
He lost a previous bid for supervisor to Paul Kelley in the 1994 election.
Windsor Councilwoman Fudge, 57, a retired PG&E environmental specialist and senior program manager, was only 242 votes shy of incumbent Kelley when she ran against him in 2006. But she was trounced by McGuire when she went up against him in 2010.
“I am researching the possibility of a run and talking to people,” she said this week of a third attempt at supervisor. “I will be making my decision soon.”
Allen, a fellow Windsor council member who is also pondering whether to throw his hat in, said he considered doing so when Kelley retired, but McGuire had too overwhelming a lead in fundraising.
“This time around caught everyone flat-footed,” said Allen, 58, a civil engineer who works for the city of Santa Rosa. “The fundraising and other (factors) should be fairly even. Everyone is coming (to the race) at the same time.”
Healdsburg Councilman Chambers, 62, a business operations and systems consultant, said the supervisor's job is “a huge commitment of time and energy” and he needs to ensure that it's something he wants to do.
Gore, 35, a “strategic consultant,” has never run for any political office, but he said “a race like this is wide open.”
He served as senior appointee in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and was assistant chief of the department's Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Chavez, 40, is the former executive director of the anti-poverty Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County, and has been encouraged to run for various elected positions.
But he said he needs to do more fact-finding and added “I'm very excited about the work I'm doing now.”
You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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