Races for city councils in Sonoma County take shape

The field of candidates for city council races across Sonoma County was set Wednesday, with Santa Rosa posting the largest number of candidates.

Nine hopefuls will vie for four open Santa Rosa seats in a race that will determine whether candidates backed by business interests can hold onto or even strengthen the 4-3 majority snatched back from progressives two years ago.

The race, which includes a mix of newcomers and those who have sought office several times, is expected to be competitive and contentious.

Nine candidates had qualified for the ballot by submitting petitions with the required 20 signatures by 5:30 p.m., City Clerk Terri Griffin said.

The highest-profile candidates in the race are Mayor Ernesto Olivares, a retired police lieutenant and the city's first Latino mayor, and Councilman Gary Wysocky, the top vote getter in the 2008 contest and a sharp critic of the current majority.

Others qualifying for the ballot include:

Santa Rosa Planning Commissioner and former homeless services administrator Caroline Ba?elos, 52, who ran unsuccessfully for the council in 2004 and 2006.

Local attorney Erin Carlstrom, 29. She serves as a member of the city's Measure O Oversight Committee.

Landscape architect Mike Cook, 33, is a former member of the city's Design Review Board.

Neighborhood activist Julie Combs, 56, is a member of the Community Advisory Board representing the city's southeast region.

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