Next year's legislative elections have suddenly become much more interesting.

Last year, Sonoma County completed a wholesale and relatively rapid turnover on its Board of Supervisors, a board that had seen little change over the previous two decades.

<NO1><NO><NO1><NO><NO1><NO><NO1><NO><NO1><NO><NO1><NO><NO1><NO>Now the North Coast is about to see a similar turnover within its legislative corps.

Several key events have played into this. Foremost was the announcement Monday by state Sen. Noreen Evans that she will not be running for a second term in 2014. Although it's no secret that Evans has long desired a judicial appointment — one that so far has eluded her — the news still came as a surprise to many in her district and leaves open a seat that wasn't expected to be vacant until 2018. But Evans, 58, who served two terms on the Santa Rosa City Council before being elected to the Assembly in 2004, noted that next year will mark 20 years in public office for her, and she's ready to return to her private practice as a lawyer. "(P)olitics (is) not how I planned to spend my life," she noted.

Since her announcement, the rumor mill has been churning as to who might take a run at the sprawling 2nd Senate District. Thanks to redistricting, the district now stretches from Marin County through Humboldt County. While many of the names that have come up as possible candidates are familiar to those in the southern part of the district, including Sonoma County Supervisor Mike McGuire, former Assemblymembers Michael Allen and Patty Berg and Marin County Supervisor Susan Adams, the vacancy opens the possibility of someone from Lake, Mendocino, Humboldt or Napa county picking up the seat.

The same is true of the race to succeed Assemblyman Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata, who is being term-limited out next year. The contest for his 2nd District Assembly seat has suddenly opened up a bit.

Although he had not committed to running, Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo was considered to be a front-runner for that seat. But given that the 32-year-old politician remains in rehab as he battles for his political future — thanks to an alcohol-laced evening in which he allegedly tried to break into a neighbor's apartment — a run at Chesbro's seat now appears unlikely.

Healdsburg City Councilman Jim Wood and John Lowry, the former executive director of Burbank Housing in Santa Rosa, have already announced plans to run for the seat. What's not known is how many others may join now that Carrillo, who was expected to enter the race riding high on the early success of Sonoma Clean Power, is out of the picture.

In addition to vacancies in the Evans and Chesbro seats, the 4th Assembly District seat held by Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, also will be up for grabs next year. This district, which includes all of Lake and Napa counties and 75 percent of Yolo County, now covers a section of Sonoma County including Rohnert Park, Glen Ellen and Kenwood. Four candidates have already announced their plans to run including Lake County Supervisor Anthony Farrington, Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza, Napa County Planning Commissioner Matt Pope and Davis City Councilman Dan Wolk, son of state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, who represents Napa County and a corner of Sonoma County including Petaluma and Rohnert Park.

So when all is said and done, after the general election next fall, the most senior member of the North Coast legislative corps, besides Wolk, will be Assemblyman Marc Levine, the former San Rafael City Council member who shook up political circles last year in beating Michael Allen in the 10th Assembly District. Hard to believe.

Meanwhile, the passage of Proposition 28 last year is expected to usher in a new era in which legislators no longer will be bouncing between legislative houses. The measure cut the total time a legislator can spend in state office from 14 to 12 years, but it allowed a lawmaker to serve their entire time in a single office.

So the message to voters for next year is clear: choose wisely. Local voters may not get a chance to fill this many open seats until 2026.

<i>Paul Gullixson is editorial director of The Press Democrat. Email him at paul.gullixson@pressdemocrat.com or call him at (707) 521-5282.</i>