Mike McGuire is preparing to walk away from his job as a Sonoma County supervisor and run for the state Legislature, a move that would trigger a political shake-up in the north county.
Freshman Santa Rosa City Councilwoman Erin Carlstrom beat him to the starting line Tuesday, announcing her entrance into the race to succeed North Coast state Sen. Noreen Evans.
McGuire, who declined to confirm his plans, has notified supporters that he intends to run for the 2nd District seat that Evans will vacate next year.
The moves are a jolt to the state Senate race, which had already attracted two candidates from opposite ends of the sprawling district, stretching from the Golden Gate to the Oregon border.
McGuire, 34, a former Healdsburg mayor and school board member, would be an immediate frontrunner in the current field, some political observers said. They cited his name recognition, support among a cross section of political camps and substantial campaign coffers.
"He has the ability to leap in and really make a splash," said Sonoma State University political scientist David McCuan.
Several people notified of McGuire's decision last week said they expected an announcement soon on his bid for the Senate seat.
"That's the word I got," said Herman Hernandez, a Guerneville real estate broker who said he'd been told of McGuire's plans by Jason Liles, one of the supervisor's main political advisors and his appointee to the county Planning Commission.
In an interview, McGuire said only that he was "having conversations with supporters and folks throughout the (Senate) district about this issue."
"I will make an announcement at the appropriate time," he said.
McGuire's first term representing the north county ends next year. If he runs for the Legislature, it would open up a seat on the Board of Supervisors in the June primary, unsettling a race that once seemed predictable with an incumbent on a clear path to reelection.
Carlstrom's situation is different. Unlike McGuire, she can run for higher office without risk of losing her current seat on the Santa Rosa council, which is up for election in 2016.
A 30-year-old attorney who has been in city office less than a year, Carlstrom had previously said she was considering a run. She made it official two weeks ago, filing paperwork with the California Secretary of State, but did not announce her candidacy until Tuesday afternoon after McGuire's reported plans became public.
The timing appeared to be an attempt to stake out a space for her campaign in a growing field. It strongly linked the birth of her first child Saturday to her interest in running for the Senate seat.
"Now, more than ever, I understand the full meaning of public service," Carlstrom said in a written statement released by her campaign. "I always knew that my advocacy and votes impacted future generations, but looking at my son, that knowledge is now personal."
Natalie LeBlanc, an advisor with the Oakland-based consultancy managing Carlstrom's campaign, said the timing of the announcement was meant to allow Carlstrom "some quiet time with her baby."
Carlstrom is currently on maternity leave from the Santa Rosa council and LeBlanc said she would not be available for an interview. Her statement said she plans to return to public duties Nov. 5 and hold a campaign kick-off Nov. 13.