Occidental attorney Eric Koenigshofer announced Wednesday that he will not seek to regain the seat he held 35 years ago on the Board of Supervisors, narrowing the highly competitive race to represent the west Sonoma County district.
Koenigshofer, a 5th District resident for more than four decades, endorsed political newcomer Lynda Hopkins.
Koenigshofer, 66, had been silent for three weeks since Supervisor Efren Carrillo ended the suspense over his plans by announcing that he would not seek a third term. A close political advisor during Carrillo’s first campaign for office at age 27, Koenigshofer had previously said he would run if Carrillo did not.
Instead, he appears to be reprising his role as a political kingmaker by backing Hopkins, a 32-year-old organic farmer from Forestville making her first bid for office.
“I like Lynda and I’m convinced her age and energy and vision of the future are reflective of what I’d like to see out there,” Koenigshofer said. He said he had spent 10 to 12 hours in a half-dozen meetings with Hopkins over the past few months “discussing issues and getting to know her.”
With Koenigshofer’s backing and an endorsement from north county Supervisor James Gore, Hopkins looms as the primary rival to Noreen Evans, 60, a political heavyweight who served a decade in the state Legislature before returning to her private law practice.
Evans, who has solid support from organized labor and environmentalists, also has endorsements from Santa Rosa area Supervisor Shirlee Zane, a friend and political ally, and Sonoma Valley Supervisor Susan Gorin, who, like Evans, is a former Santa Rosa councilwoman.
Evans’ recent move from her east Santa Rosa home to Sebastopol to be eligible to run in the 5th District opens her to the criticism Koenigshofer expressed, saying he rejects “the idea of district-shopping that undermines the integrity of local government.”
Five other potential candidates are eying the race, all of whom would likely have difficulty competing in an election that experts say will cost between $100,000 and $300,000 to win. Evans can likely raise as much as $500,000, said David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist.
Koenigshofer, who was elected to the board in 1976, recalled being part of the environmental majority — with former Supervisors Helen Rudee and Brian Kahn — that adopted the county’s first General Plan, a codified approach to managing development.
Hopkins “isn’t easily pigeon-holed” as either a business or environmental advocate, Koenigshofer said, but “has the potential to take us beyond that to a more nuanced” approach to governing.
Koenigshofer said he has played a role in electing the west county supervisor ever since his lone term ended, backing his successor, Ernie Carpenter, in 1980, losing his own race with Mike Reilly in 1996 and supporting Carrillo in 2008.
You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @guykovner.