For the first time in more than 50 years, a Mendocino County 5th District supervisor is running for re-election without a challenge.
"I have been here 50 years, I have never seen the 5th District seat being unchallenged," said Norman de Vall, a former four-term 5th District supervisor.
Dan Hamburg, a former congressman, is the current incumbent 5th District supervisor.
The lack of candidates for the seat is particularly surprising because the district is known for divergent views that have led to hotly contested races in the past.
The vast district contains a politically diverse population that lends itself to policy disagreements, de Vall said. Its coastal section runs from just north of the town of Mendocino to the border with Sonoma County. Its inland portions include Boonville, Hopland and the outskirts of Ukiah.
"It leans primarily, with many different opinions, from progressive to slightly left of center," de Vall said. Its supervisors have ranged from conservative to liberal.
"It's not an easy district to run in," Hamburg said.
De Vall blamed the dearth of candidates on several factors he says have caused people to become apathetic about local politics. Younger people — those under 45 — seem to have little interest in local politics, and county officials have not done enough to draw the public into the decision-making process, he said. De Vall said the way to make a difference on environmental and land issues these days is to file lawsuits.
The cost of running a campaign against an incumbent also is discouraging to potential candidates, de Vall said.
Hamburg said his district's residents are not apathetic. He said the more likely reason no one has stepped forward to challenge him is because of his efforts to consider the needs of all of his constituents.
"I'm out and about a lot," he said.
Point Arena Mayor Doug Burkey agrees. He said he initially didn't vote for Hamburg because he's a Ukiah-area resident. Inland and coastal residents tend to have very different priorities, Burkey said.
But Hamburg has spent a lot of time traveling to the south coast and has since won him over.
"He's done real well by us. I'm really pleased," Burkey said. He noted Hamburg's support of the effort to get the Stornetta Public Lands designated as part of the California Coastal National Monument.
The 5th District race isn't the only one in Mendocino County that's short on candidates.
There are seven other uncontested seats, including sheriff, district attorney, treasurer-tax collector, auditor-controller and three judgeships. It's been 20 years since a district attorney seat was uncontested, according to the District Attorney's Office.
In contrast, four candidates are running for the open 3rd District supervisor's seat. Two, including the incumbent, are running for assessor-clerk-recorder.
Interest in running for office is higher in Lake County.
Three candidates, including the incumbent, are running in the 2nd District supervisor's race and five newcomers are seeking the 3rd District seat. Sheriff Frank Rivero, who has been a lightning rod for controversy, has two challengers, probation officer Brian Martin and Bob Chalk, a former police chief; while District Attorney Don Anderson has one, attorney Andre Ross. Three people are running for assessor-recorder.
Races for which there are just one candidate each include those for superintendent of schools, treasurer-tax collector and clerk-auditor.