First, let's set the record straight about the 1st District.
While sentiment may be on the side of those who claim that the 1st District seat on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors "traditionally" has been held by someone from the Sonoma Valley, the facts simply do not back up their claim.
Bob Adams, a former deputy sheriff who represented the 1st District in the early 1980s, lived in Rincon Valley. And Mike Cale, who held the 1st District seat for more than a decade, grew up in Santa Rosa and lived in Bennett Valley when he was appointed to the Board in 1991 by then-Gov. Pete Wilson. He later moved to Kenwood, but he certainly didn't come from the Sonoma Valley.
So, when either Susan Gorin or John Sawyer is elected to the Board of Supervisors in November, it won't the first time a Santa Rosa resident has represented the 1st District.
The five months between now and then, however, may be the first time two sitting members of the Santa Rosa City Council have contested for that seat. And that fact should cause concern not just for voters who live in the Sonoma Valley, but for residents throughout the 1st District.
Gorin and Sawyer are two good people. If you had a chance to sit down and talk to each of them one-on-one for an hour, you'd probably have a tough time deciding which of them should get your vote.
But as members of the City Council, they represent two sides of a bitter divide in Santa Rosa politics, a "business vs. environment" or "growth vs. no-growth" or "traditional vs. progressive" battle that has waxed and waned for years in Sonoma County's largest city.
If that battle spills over into the race for 1st District supervisor, it does a disservice to the voters who reside there &#8211; whether within the city limits or without. The race is for a seat at the head of county government, not for an advantage in city politics.
Unfortunately, that latter agenda is a likely direction for the course of this campaign. The same interests that battle for control of the council will also battle for control of the Board of Supervisors. Both Gorin and Sawyer have the base of their support in Santa Rosa, and both carry the baggage of past battles into this campaign. Their money, their issues, their records all will lean heavily toward their city-centered pasts.
Their job will be to break away from that.
There's nothing wrong with a Santa Rosan representing the 1st District; after all, more than half of the district's residents live in Santa Rosa. But to win in November a candidate must show the other 48 percent of his or her future constituents that they count as more than just votes on election day.
The campaign should be about what's best for the future of the 1st District, and not what's poisonous about the politics of its largest city.
Chris Coursey's blog offers a community commentary and forum, from issues of the day to the ingredients of life in Sonoma County.