Two years ago, we posed the question "where have all the local candidates gone?" We were lamenting the small number of contested races Sonoma County voters faced on the June ballot.
This year, despite a still-struggling economy that makes it all the more difficult to pursue office, it's a different story. Voters will see a long list of candidates on June 5, including some contests featuring individuals wanting to get back into politics after an extended absence.
In addition, for the first time, the general election may not feature the top Democrat candidate versus the top Republican. With the top-two primary system voters approved two years ago, the race will feature, as the name implies, a run-off between the two top vote-getters.
Where this new system is most likely to be tested is in the 2nd Congressional District, which runs from the Golden Gate Bridge along the coast to the Oregon border. The race, which includes parts of Rep. Lynn Woolsey's district as well as Rep. Mike Thompson's district before reapportionment, features 12 candidates. Democrats include Marin County Supervisor Susan Adams, William Courtney of Mendocino, Larry Fritzlan of Mill Valley, Assemblyman Jared Huffman, San Rafael businesswoman Stacey Lawson, Petaluma City Councilwoman Tiffany Renee and Norman Solomon of Marin County. The Republicans are Daniel Roberts of Mill Valley and Mike Halliwell of Cotati. Other candidates are Andy Caffrey, a Green Party candidate from Humboldt County, and John Lewallen of Philo and Brooke Clarke of Ukiah who have no party affiliation.
The race to succeed Sonoma County Supervisor Valerie Brown also features a crowded field. The candidates include Santa Rosa City Council members Susan Gorin and John Sawyer; Mark Bramfitt, a Sonoma Valley energy consultant; Gina Cuclis, a Boyes Hot Springs communications consultant; and Sonoma Mayor Joanne Sanders. Michael McClure, a Glen Ellen special education teacher, became the sixth candidate on Wednesday, the filing deadline for this seat.
In the 5th Supervisorial District, incumbent Efren Carrillo faces former Supervisor Ernie Carpenter, who held that post from 1980-96. Veronica Jacobi, an ex-Santa Rosa City Council member, is also running.
Meanwhile, Supervisor Shirlee Zane is being challenged in the 3rd Supervisorial District by another familiar name in local politics, former Rohnert Park Mayor Tim Smith.
In another intriguing race, Assemblyman Michael Allen, who lost his seat due to redistricting, is competing in the newly created 10th Assembly District against San Rafael City Councilman Marc Levine; Joe Boswell, a San Rafael independent; H. Christian Gunderson, a chiropractor and Petaluma Democrat; and Peter J. Mancus, Republican small-business owner from Sebastopol.
Space doesn't allow us to list all the candidates in all the local races. Suffice it to say, this election sets up to be one of the most interesting the North Coast has seen in a while.
In the weeks to come, we will be offering our recommendations on these contests. But for the moment we like to commend all of those who had the courage to step up and put their hat in the ring.
Running for office is never easy, never cheap and usually unsuccessful. But if no one did it, residents would have no ability to exercise their most fundamental democratic right — to vote. Readers can show their appreciation by registering to vote and casting a ballot. The deadline to register is May 24.