Road maintenance, a topic high on the list of voter priorities in Sonoma County, also hits close to home for James Gore and Deb Fudge, the two candidates vying to represent the 4th District on the Board of Supervisors. When it comes to examples of poor roads, they don’t have to go far beyond their own driveways.
Gore mentions the potholes that plague Bailhache Avenue, the county-maintained road he lives on just outside Healdsburg.
“It’s just funky and old, and it needs to be done right,” he said of the repairs needed.
Fudge mentions the time her elderly father filled potholes on Jensen Lane, her street in Windsor, with leftover material from a walkway project.
“It’s sad when you are the mayor of the town and your 80-year-old father goes out and puts rocks in the potholes on your street,” she said.
Both candidates favor a quarter-cent sales tax to fix the county’s crumbling road system, which the Board of Supervisors recently agreed to place on the ballot in a March special election.
Both say if the measure passes, they support matching the $8.7 million in annual tax revenue it would generate for the county with money from the general fund — and perhaps even exceeding the match — to help address the estimated $268 million backlog in repairs to the county’s 1,382-mile road network.
Some who have been active on the roads issue see Gore as the most likely candidate to follow through on that pledge. Supporters include SOS Roads, the Sonoma County citizens group formed to advocate for improved road funding, which endorsed Gore earlier this month. Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3 also endorsed Gore for the same reason.
“We had several meetings with him. He will be a very strong champion of the roads issue,” said Craig Harrison, the co-founder of SOS Roads. “He sees roads as a major problem. We feel we have a really strong ally in James.”
Chris Snyder, district representative for the Operating Engineers, said the group considers Gore to be “a little more pro infrastructure” than Fudge.
But county Supervisor Shirlee Zane, who endorsed Fudge, doesn’t believe she will be any less aggressive than her rival in supporting road funding.
“I don’t see how a guy who worked for the largest agricultural department in Washington has a deeper understanding about our crumbling road system than a seasoned elected (official) who is also a bike rider, SMART board director, has been a planner and put money into roads in Windsor for many years,” Zane said.
The race for north county supervisor is seen as one that could determine the balance of the board for years to come, not only on how supervisors vote on roads, but on thorny land issues, public employee matters and environmental policies.
The two are vying to succeed Supervisor Mike McGuire, who is running for state Senate.
Analysts view the runoff as one that could determine the swing vote between liberal and centrist blocs on the Board of Supervisors. On contested issues, Zane and Susan Gorin are the most consistently liberal supervisors, while David Rabbitt and Efren Carrillo tend to be more conservative. The vast majority of board votes, however, are unanimous, and the philosophical divide is not always as great as political endorsements suggest.