If polling paid for by a firefighters' union is accurate, Guerneville-area residents are on their way to electing new board leadership for the Russian River Fire Protection District.
The recall vote less than two weeks from now comes in the wake of political upheaval last fall over the dismissal of the district's chief, Max Ming.
But supporters said it's driven, as well, by longtime grievances about the district board and what they describe as micromanagement, secrecy and disrespect toward firefighters and the public.
Several board members, including the recall targets, said the vote is a power grab by the union.
The fire district has a history of political tumult, including a complete recall of the board in 1990, frequent board resignations and a revolving door through which more than a dozen fire chiefs have passed since the mid-1980s.
The county election's office says about a fifth of the area's voters already have cast mail-in ballots to be counted toward the April 8 election.
Firefighters and their allies hope to oust two sitting board members and install a pair of replacements. The recall targets Kevin O'Shea, who once served as fire chief in Guerneville and Bodega Bay and has been on the board since 2002, and vice president Linda Payne, who operates a San Francisco daycare center and has served 3 1/2 years on the board.
Seeking election to their seats are Chuck Limbert, a San Francisco police lieutenant, and retired Alameda County firefighter Mark Emmett. Both are Guerneville residents.
A telephone poll by well-known Sonoma County political consultant Herb Williams puts support for the recall at 80 percent or more, said Fire Capt. Ryan Lantz, president of the firefighters' union.
"It looks like the basketball term — slam-dunk," recall supporter Lloyd Guccione said.
But some of those surveyed said the poll included the kind of questioning that's designed to shape sentiment more than measure it.
Interviews with people in the district last week, in neighborhoods and in public venues, turned up many who weren't aware of the issues, despite huge red and white signs prominently displayed at all the main entrances to town. Several locals said they think only a minority are really interested in the recall.
But those who are engaged "are really passionate," resident Lynette Guptill said.
The entire discussion leaves O'Shea and Payne, and their supporters, disappointed and disgusted.
They questioned both the expense of a special election — up to $22,000 — when both are serving terms ending in November, and the willingness of recall supporters to vote them out of office without knowing the confidential details behind the decision to relieve Ming of his post.
It's unclear, as well, why just the two were targeted when the five-member board was unanimous in its Aug. 2 decision to remove Ming as chief of the Russian River district. He later was reinstated.
"The whole board should have been recalled if anyone should have been recalled," said former board member Frank Lambert Jr., who became so disenchanted that he resigned last winter.
"I think there's a lot of misinformation ... that's accepted as fact," said board member Nancy Jo Wood.
Ming works for the Forestville Fire Protection District but serves as part-time chief of the Russian River district under contract between the agencies. In Guerneville, he manages 12 paid firefighters, who rallied behind him when he was removed and are largely responsible for the recall effort.