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Windsor endorsements make waves in north county supervisorial race


James Gore, a candidate for Sonoma County supervisor, has landed an opening jab by getting three Windsor Town Council members to endorse him instead of Windsor Councilwoman Deb Fudge.

Gore, a Sonoma County native who spent three years in a senior position with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, announced this week that a majority of the council is backing him for 4th District supervisor. Some observers interpreted the endorsement as a snub for Fudge, who is also seeking the seat.

In prepared statements, Mayor Bruce Okrepkie, Vice-mayor Steve Allen and Councilwoman Robin Goble touted Gore for his enthusiasm, passion, energy and fresh perspective, saying he will listen to the needs of constituents in the North County and be a voice for Windsor on the board of supervisors.

"I'm honored and excited they have the confidence in our campaign and me," Gore said Friday. "It bodes well for our campaign."

Fudge reacted with a statement of her own that blamed ideological differences between her and some of her colleagues.

"I am proud of my role in building a new downtown and Town Green for Windsor. But the consensus that brought those accomplishments has been fractured by politics and ideology," she said.

"My fight for more conservation and a greener town, including Sonoma Clean Power, isn't supported by some of my colleagues whose vision for our town is less progressive," she said.

Petaluma political consultant Brian Sobel gave Gore credit for scoring some early points in the race, which has five declared candidates and a June primary. If no one gets a majority of the vote in June, the two top vote-getters advance to a November run-off.

"He's done a sensational job of picking off part of a town council," Sobel said of Gore, 35, who is making his first run at elected office after seven years total in Washington, D.C. "What it says about him is: He is legitimate. He signs up people who serve with the competition," he said.

On balance, Sobel said candidates prefer to have the endorsement of colleagues and peers "because in theory, they watch you closer than anyone else, know about the positions you take, and how you arrive at positions."

But the endorsements may not mean as much, Sobel said if voters believe Fudge, 57, is more aligned with their thinking, or standing up for them.

"No doubt it's a gut punch," Sobel said. "In the bigger picture it's something she can recover from quickly and counter with endorsements she's got."

That's exactly what Fudge did, noting she has been endorsed by Sonoma County supervisors Shirlee Zane and Susan Gorin, along with state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa; former Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma; and former Assemblywoman Patty Berg, D-Eureka.

"I'm sure my endorsements are unmatched in this race," she said.

Okrepkie is a relative newcomer to the Windsor Council, having served just over a year, but he said he likes Gore's "pro business" stance and involvement with agriculture.

"It's not an assault against Debora," he said.

But it isn't the first time that Windsor council veterans Allen and Goble have endorsed an opponent of Fudge's, who is making her third bid to be elected county supervisor.

Both backed Supervisor Mike McGuire when Fudge ran against him four years ago. Mcguire has decided not to seek re-election and is instead running for the state Senate seek being vacated by Evans.

Also in the supervisorial race are Healdsburg Councilman Tom Chambers, former Healdsburg councilman Pete Foppiano, and Keith Rhinehart, a former UPS supervisor and part-time teacher.

Gore, whose family is in the wine industry, returned to the area this year after leaving a senior post in the Obama administration, as assistant chief in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Allen said he likes Gore for a number of reasons, including that he is "closer to the moderate outlook on the issues."

"I didn't feel that he had that activist bent in politics. He had more of a nuts and bolts (approach) -#8212; how you're going to make it work," Allen said.

"He doesn't come with a narrow personal agenda," Goble said, asserting that Fudge has "marginalized people."

Allen and Goble have sided against Fudge on a number of significant issues. For example Fudge supported the creation of Sonoma Clean Power, the start-up county public agency that will compete with PG-E.

Allen and Goble did not, and also were at odds with Fudge on a pay-as-you go water saving program.

Fudge supported resolutions on gun control and another on a proposed constitutional amendment to limit political spending by corporations. Allen and Goble either opposed or declined to vote on the matters, saying the issues were not local, nor deserving of the Town Council's time.

(You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com.)