North Coast political circles are all abuzz about who will seek the state Senate seat held by Santa Rosa Democrat Noreen Evans, who announced she will not seek re-election in 2014.
However, predictions that the field will be crowded and include some heavy hitters so far don't seem to be panning out. Several big-name candidates rumored to be interested in the job all but ruled out a run in interviews with The Press Democrat.
That includes three-term state Assemblywoman Patty Berg, 71, who said last week from her home in Eureka that she can't foresee being able to campaign in the vast 2nd District while recovering from upcoming hip surgery.
"It's a timing issue for me," she said.
Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane expressed no interest in the job, as did Marin County Supervisor Susan Adams, who said she is focused on fending off a recall effort.
Mike McGuire would not rule out making a run, although he said his focus at the moment is "on my work as Sonoma County supervisor." McGuire, who hosted a campaign event Sunday tied to his re-election bid to the county board, said he has $160,000 on hand.
Santa Rosa Councilwoman Erin Carlstrom, who has been in elected office nine months, is "considering" a run, saying the 2nd District includes "a strong legacy of female leadership from the area." She did not give a timeline for making her decision.
Likewise, San Rafael councilman Damon Connolly also said he's mulling the opportunity. "Right now I'm weighing several options," he said.
One-term state Assemblyman Michael Allen, who is said to be in the mix, did not return several phone messages seeking comment.
For now, 36-year-old Arcata resident Chris Lehman is the only person to have filed paperwork with the California Secretary of State to create a campaign committee and start fundraising for the Senate seat.
Lehman is a longtime Senate consultant who has never held elected office, and as of last week, had yet to raise any money. But he has the endorsement of state Assemblyman and former state Senator Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata, as well as that of Berg and Senate President Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.
Lehman said his greatest challenge will be getting his name known in the 2nd District, which under redistricting spans a territory from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border.
"I'm going to work my absolute tail off to meet all the stakeholders and understand the issues in all seven counties," said the father of two.
Granted, the March filing deadline for the November 2014 election is months away, leaving plenty of time for some surprises. And it's only been two weeks since Evans announced that she is stepping down to focus on her law practice.
Evans said last week that she has not endorsed a potential replacement. Whoever succeeds her, she said, will need a solid staff in order to meet the needs of the 2nd District.
"That's the only way to manage a district of this size and serve your constituent's interests in the state Capitol," she said.
As for rumors Evans may be interested in running for the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors for the seat currently held by embattled west county supervisor Efren Carrillo, Evans said, "I've not ruled anything out, but I have no immediate plans."