Longtime Councilman Mike Harris has entered the race for Petaluma mayor, setting the stage for a rousing election next year that could again tip the political scales in Petaluma.
Harris declared on Wednesday his intentions to challenge Mayor David Glass in November 2014. Glass announced last year that he will seek re-election.
Both men are longtime Petalumans who have been elected several times to local office and generally are on opposite ends of the political spectrum.
As such, political observers say, many voters may have already aligned themselves with their favored candidate.
Harris, 42, has received support from the business community, including developers, real estate interests and builders. He is the council's only Republican, although the race is nonpartisan.
Glass has seen support from environmentalists and the progressive elements of the Democratic party. He and former mayor Pam Torliatt, the only other candidate to have filed election papers for a 2014 council seat, have held mutual fundraisers.
In last year's election, voters tilted the council toward the pro-business side, electing Mike Healy, Kathy Miller and Gabe Kearney. They often align with Harris and Chris Albertson, while Glass tends to vote along the same lines as Teresa Barrett.
In his announcement, Harris, an executive with a Petaluma-based financial services company, implied voters were on the right path.
"There is only one more thing we need to do to put this city on the road to real recovery," he said, "and that is to elect a new mayor."
Glass, 65, who recently retired from the municipal bond industry after more than two decades, said he welcomes the challenge.
"When you have the background of longevity that Harris and I both have, bring it on," he said. "Let's have a series of debates instead of having a lot of 30-second sound-bites and snippets.
"I don't think you can get a more defined choice," Glass said.
Harris is serving his third consecutive four-year term on the council. Glass is running for a third term as mayor. He was elected to the post in 2002. In 2008, he was elected to the council but then ran mid-term for mayor in 2010.
City labor unions supported Glass' opponent in 2010 and Harris said the leaders of both the police and fire department unions support him personally in this race.
Harris said he is proud that the Target and Friedman's shopping centers were approved after a lengthy process, and he said he wants to work to continue to attract revenue-generating businesses to Petaluma.
"As mayor I will make attracting business to our city a priority and will work hand-in-hand with our economic development team to fully implement our adopted economic strategic plan to continue to heal our city financially," he said.
Petaluma is the only Sonoma County city that has a separately elected mayor. The mayor leads council meetings and helps set the agenda, but has no more power than other council members.
In addition to the mayoral post, the council seats of Harris, Barrett and Albertson will be on the Nov. 4, 2014 ballot.
Harris was first elected to the council in 2002. He was the top vote getter among six candidates in 2006 and among nine candidates in 2010.
You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or firstname.lastname@example.org.