Attorney Erin Carlstrom has taken an early fundraising lead in her bid for one of the four Santa Rosa City Council seats on the ballot in November, but the field is far from settled.
Carlstrom raised $16,829 between July 1 and the end of 2011, more than twice as much as her closest competitor, neighborhood activist Julie Combs. In all, Carlstrom, a member of the city's Measure O Oversight Committee, has reported raising $21,064 and has $11,043 in cash on hand.
Carlstrom said her fundraising demonstrates she enjoys strong community support and has the means to run an effective campaign.
Julie Combs, a founder of Bennett Valley neighborhood group "95405.org" and member of the city's Community Advisory Board, raised $7,870 in the final six months of 2011.
But due largely to $9,000 she previously loaned her campaign, Combs' campaign has had access to nearly as much cash as Carlstrom, with total contributions of $20,084. And because she's spent less, Combs had slightly more cash on hand at year's end, $11,489.
Combs said the broad base of support she is getting shows she's running a grass-roots campaign.
This year's council race has the potential to shift the balance of power on the ideologically divided council, where members supported by business and development interests hold a slim 4-3 advantage over those more closely aligned labor and environmental groups.
The local filing deadline to become an official candidate isn't until August, and how many incumbents will seek re-election isn't clear.
Mayor Ernesto Olivares will presumably run again. Vice Mayor John Sawyer, the longest serving member of the council, is running for the 1st District seat on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. If he loses in the June primary, he still would have time to defend his council seat.
Councilman Gary Wysocky said he'll make a decision whether to run for council or the Board of Supervisors after discussing it with his family. And Councilwoman Marsha Vas Dupre has said she will not run again.
Carlstrom, 28, and Combs, 56, both relative newcomers to the city's political scene, got early starts to their fundraising in an effort to build name recognition.
But others are also planning to get campaigns into gear.
Caroline Baneulos, a member of the Planning Commission and volunteer coordinator at the Living Room, a center for homeless women, filed papers last year and says her campaign will kick off soon.
Shaan Vandenburg, an asphalt plant operator at Syar Industries in Santa Rosa, announced his intention to run earlier this month.
And Hans Dippel, who works at a winery supply company in Cotati and ran for council in 2008, hasn't filed paperwork yet but says he plans to do so soon.
The other big unknown is who will run with the help of political consultant Herb Williams, who helped guide the campaigns of all four members of the current council majority.
Williams declined to discuss how many candidates he might manage, and said any announcements will be made "at the appropriate time." He said he isn't worried about other candidates getting a head-start on fundraising.
"Good for them," he said.
You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or email@example.com.