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Windsor Councilwoman Deb Fudge made it official this week, jumping into the race for Sonoma County supervisor, in hopes the third time around will be a charm.

Fudge, who enjoys strong name recognition for her five terms as Windsor mayor and past head of the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit board, has run twice unsuccessfully for the north county supervisorial seat.

"I'm a determined person. That's why I'm running a third time. I work hard and go after my dreams," Fudge said Tuesday.

With incumbent Mike McGuire deciding not to seek re-election and instead pursue a state Senate seat, Fudge becomes the third person to announce her candidacy to succeed him for the $134,000 job.

The others are former Healdsburg Mayor Pete Foppiano, who lost a previous bid for supervisor in 1994, and Keith Rhinehart, a former UPS supervisor and part-time teacher who ran briefly last year before dropping out of the supervisorial race in the Sonoma Valley's 1st District. He now lives in Wikiup.

Fudge is seen as a contender out of the gate, although it's still very early, with a March 12 deadline to file for the June primary election and more candidates expected to emerge.

"Deb is an experienced office holder and has run for the position before," said Petaluma political consultant Brian Sobel. "Obviously she's been watching county issues for a very long time and she'll be a strong candidate in the race."

Foppiano, a mortgage and real estate broker who was on the Healdsburg City Council from 1984 to 1996, also touts his previous experience serving on regional boards, particularly dealing with transportation issues.

He is not part of the Foppiano wine family.

Rhinehart, who has no previous experience in local government, has advocated cuts in government pensions and pay to enable an expansion of the county's workforce and public services.

Fudge's name recognition is better than anyone who has expressed an interest in McGuire's seat, according to political observers, although that has to be translated into support.

As far as her previous losses, Sobel said "some people will say someone who runs over and over diminished their chance. But politics is about timing. If the timing is right and the candidate lineup suits her, she'll do very well."

Fudge said Tuesday that she is running at "a higher, more organized level from the very start" compared to her past bids for supervisor.

"Having taken a few pages out of Mike McGuire's book, I will admit I learned a lot," she said of her opponent's prodigious fundraising and energetic campaigning.

"It's different than 2010, when I was up against the Energizer bunny," she said of McGuire's style.

Fudge lost overwhelmingly to McGuire that year, but in 2006 she came within 242 votes of unseating incumbent Paul Kelley.

When she ran against Kelley, she was undergoing radiation for breast cancer, after previously undergoing chemotherapy.

Fudge, 57, said Tuesday she has been cancer-free for eight years and passed a check-up last week "with flying colors."

This time around, she dropped her long-standing "Debora" for the more informal "Deb," explaining that it's a little more approachable.

She's also gathered some early endorsements from State Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, former Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, and Healdsburg Mayor Susan Jones.

She's hired a campaign manager as well as a consultant.

Fudge said she expects to raise between $150,000 to $200,000 for the primary, and has done so before. If there is a run-off election needed in November 2014, the amount could go higher.

A retired PG&E senior program manager, Fudge, 57, has been on the Windsor City Council since 1996 and served on the Planning Commission for two years prior to that.

She claims credit for leading the transformation of Windsor and creating a downtown and Town Green that has won national and regional awards for design and functionality, even though critics say it lacks anchor tenants to make businesses more viable.

She has been a champion for the SMART train and serves on the rail agency's board of directors, which has been subject to criticism for the delay in delivering the full commuter rail service from San Rafael to Cloverdale promised to voters.

But Fudge said Tuesday the agency didn't have a choice when funding fell short. In 2010, she said SMART promised trains would be running from downtown San Rafael to Santa Rosa in 2016, and remains on schedule to do so.

She said the transit agency is actually close to providing service to the Sonoma County-Charles M. Schulz Airport by 2016 and has half the money needed to extend rail service to the Larkspur ferry terminal by then.

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com.

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