Longtime political foes Gorin, Sawyer now election rivals

Susan Gorin and John Sawyer long have been rivals on the Santa Rosa City Council, staking out contrasting positions on land use, fiscal issues and neighborhood involvement.

But the election to decide who takes over the 1st District seat on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, held for 10 years by Valerie Brown, marks the first time the political opposites have become opponents on the ballot.

The bruising runoff, now more than a year old, is being fought along familiar fronts for the candidates and their dueling political camps.

Gorin is the more liberal figure, supported by the county's largest environmental and labor groups.

Sawyer is the more conservative politician, with support from business and agriculture interests, as well as law enforcement and firefighter unions.

Both claim credentials across that divide, but Gorin accuses Sawyer of "greenwashing" his environmental record, while Sawyer says Gorin's votes against some development have been "short-sighted."

Their rivalry has been bitter at times, factoring in power shifts on the Santa Rosa council and sparking protests by their supporters on the steps of City Hall.

What's different in the race for Brown's seat is that the fight is being waged in what is mostly new geographic terrain for the two candidates.

Both are well-known within Santa Rosa city limits, but the 1st District encompasses a much wider swath of the county to the east and south, including the city of Sonoma and Sonoma Valley.

Since June, when they topped a primary field of four other challengers, all of them from Sonoma Valley or Sonoma, Gorin and Sawyer have been in a high-octane scramble to broaden their bases.

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