Penngrove rancher John King has entered the race for Sonoma County's 2nd District supervisorial seat, setting up a rematch with Supervisor David Rabbitt, who he faced in the crowded 2010 primary.
King, who is probably best known for challenging development plans in Rohnert Park based on his concerns about the scarcity of water, filed to run Friday, the last day for candidates to enter the race in that district.
As he did in 2010, King will run as a fiscally conservative defender of the county's agriculture interests, drawing both on his experience as a member of a ranching family and as an accountant and businessman.
"What the public has lost is representation by people who live in and understand the rural 2nd District, who understand agriculture," he said, accusing Rabbitt of being primarily interested in issues in the cities, which are governed by independent city councils.
"He's the eighth member of the Petaluma City Council," King said.
In addition to Petaluma, the 2nd District includes Cotati, part of Rohnert Park, Penngrove and the unincorporated towns and ranchland south of Sebastopol.
King placed fourth in the four-way 2010 primary race, drawing a little more than 4,200 votes out of more than 25,600 cast. He later unsuccessfully tried to run as a write-in candidate in the November general election, in which Rabbitt, then a Petaluma City Council member, defeated Petaluma Mayor Pam Torliatt.
King, 57, is a Sonoma County native who grew up on a ranch in Penngrove. He earned a bachelor's degree in Business Economics from UC Santa Barbara and went on to work for KPMG Peat Marwick, the large auditing and financial services firm. He later founded his own practice and also worked in the wine, banking and, lately, railroad industries.
He became an activist on water issues in 1996 after the well on his ranch went dry, a failure he blamed on rampant development, particularly in nearby Rohnert Park. He successfully sued Rohnert Park in 2002 to block a planned annexation and he has been a familiar voice in criticizing development plans that he sees as infringing on agricultural areas or threatening groundwater supplies.
It's not clear whether King can be much of a factor in the county race this time around. Despite the fact that he had no declared opponents at the time, Rabbitt spent last year aggressively raising money. His latest campaign finance report, filed in January, shows he was sitting on more than $100,000 as of Jan. 1. Some of his biggest supporters come from the agricultural sector.
Rabbitt "has a beyond-full war chest," said David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political science professor and a close observer of local electoral politics.
King acknowledged his disadvantage in fundraising, but said he planned to campaign relentlessly and "just tell the truth ... People are hungry for the truth, and David just isn't doing it."
Rabbitt said Tuesday that he had half-hoped he would run unopposed, but he welcomed the challenge as "good for the process."
"I was planning on (campaigning) anyway," he said. "We were planning to do fliers. I was planning to walk the precincts. Now, I just have more motivation."
The fact that no higher-profile candidates stepped forward to challenge Rabbitt suggests that his critics, particularly organized labor and environmental groups, did not think he could be beaten, McCuan said.