Hours after advancing to a runoff for an open seat on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, Susan Gorin and John Sawyer, both buoyant and sleep-deprived Wednesday, were already charting their next moves.
Their showdown this fall could produce the swing vote on controversial land-use issues and factor heavily in decisions about economic development, pension system overhaul and spending on county services including road upkeep.
Gorin and Sawyer, rivals on the Santa Rosa City Council, said they expected the race to be hard-fought, with debate over their divergent voting records, dueling expenditures by outside interests and different visions for the future of the county.
"Any time you have a runoff, it becomes more divisive than a multiperson race," said Gorin.
The November election, with two sitting Santa Rosa council members vying for a district stretching to the Napa County line, could be "historic in nature," Sawyer said.
Not only will Sonoma Valley be represented by a Santa Rosa resident, the five-member board will have three members from the county's largest city, including Supervisors Efren Carrillo and Shirlee Zane, who were re-elected to second terms Tuesday.
The remaining battle is for the 1st District seat held since 2002 <NO1><NO>by Valerie Brown, a former Sonoma mayor and state legislator who lives outside of Kenwood. The district takes in the Sonoma Valley, including the towns of Glen Ellen and Kenwood, the city of Sonoma and much of eastern Santa Rosa.
Claiming the post will require garnering more support in Sonoma Valley along with solidifying a Santa Rosa base, both candidates said in separate interviews Wednesday.
"It's No. 1 on my list," Sawyer said.
"That's the first order of business," Gorin said.
The day-after jockeying took place as two of the three main contenders from Sonoma Valley traded shots over their loss.
The top vote-getter among them, Gina Cuclis, a Boyes Hot Springs communications consultant who entered the race first in June 2011, blamed Sonoma Mayor Joanne Sanders, saying she had further splintered valley voters when she entered the race in February.
"Joanne Sanders Ralph Nadered Sonoma Valley," Cuclis said, "meaning there were too many candidates in the race."
Cuclis, Sanders and Mark Bramfitt, the third Sonoma-based candidate, had 17, 16 and 14 percent of the vote, respectively. Sawyer and Gorin tallied just over 23 percent each, with Sawyer ahead by 86 votes Wednesday.
"All that I would have needed was less than half of her (Sanders') votes," Cuclis said. "She never had a chance entering in February. That's why people are pointing the finger at her."
Sanders, in response, said she entered the race as a two-term city councilwoman focused on a major valley issue — the February dissolution of redevelopment projects, including the Highway 12 roadway and sidewalk improvements. Her campaign also focused on reducing county pension and salary costs.
"I think my candidacy brought forward some issues that wouldn't have been brought forward," Sanders said.
She said there was no way to say whether her voters would have otherwise thrown their support behind Cuclis or Bramfitt had she not entered the race.
"It sounds like someone has sour grapes to me," Sanders said.
Bramfitt, an energy consultant endorsed by Brown in the primary, said the divided vote in the valley was a major factor in the outcome, but that the finger pointing was misplaced.