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Growth on back burner in Petaluma council race

In the past several Petaluma City Council elections, candidates have been defined by their attitudes toward growth: Skeptical or welcoming, business-oriented or slow-growth, pro-development or pro-environment.

But with the approval of two large shopping centers now in the city's rear-view mirror, the six candidates seeking election in November are working to differentiate themselves by issues other than how accommodating they are to development.

Managing the city's precarious budget, fixing potholes and street lights, attracting jobs and revenues, maintaining the City Hall workforce and pensions, and getting along with each other are all priorities cited by the candidates.

With three seats on the seven-member council on the Nov. 6 ballot, the results could install a solid majority in either direction or establish a moderate mix.

Incumbents Gabe Kearney, Mike Healy and Tiffany Renée are seeking to retain their seats while Kathy Miller, Jason Davies and Alicia Kae Herries are challengers.

Healy is seeking a fourth term, Renée a second and Kearney is asking voters to continue his tenure on the council, to which he was appointed in 2011 to fill a vacant seat.

"There are some very qualified candidates," said Brian Sobel, a Petaluma political analyst and former city councilman. "It is, I think appropriately, being delineated as a more progressive threesome versus a more business-oriented, less-progressive threesome. And the balance of the council is at stake."

While some candidates in the nonpartisan race resist being characterized by their political leanings (all are Democrats), some inferences can be drawn from their endorsements.

Mayor David Glass and Councilwoman Teresa Barrett endorse Herries and Davies. Glass campaigned with Renée in 2008, but he hasn't supported her this time.

Councilmen Mike Harris and Chris Albertson support Healy, Miller and Kearney.

Miller and Healy are running as a slate and share the same political consultant, Herb Williams of Santa Rosa. They have several campaign contributors in common, including Petaluma developer Basin Street Properties and Ghilotti Construction interests.

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