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Lynda Hopkins, an organic farmer making her first bid for elected office, received the most votes Tuesday in the primary election for western Sonoma County’s seat on the Board of Supervisors, setting up a November runoff against veteran North Coast politician Noreen Evans.

Hopkins and Evans were the top two vote-getters in a field of five candidates seeking to succeed Efren Carrillo representing the 5th District.

With 71 of 71 precincts reporting, Hopkins, received 39.7 percent of the vote to 37.9 percent for Evans, an attorney, former state legislator and Santa Rosa councilwoman.

“I’m really humbled by the support. We exceeded my expectations, and I’m so honored that people came out to support me, but it’s still very close,” said Hopkins, 33, of Forestville. “I think people got excited about bridging divergent interests and outside-the-box policy solutions … It’s still going to be a lot of hard work getting through November.”

The outcome sets up a showdown expected to determine the balance of power on the Board of Supervisors and steer decisions on key issues, including moves to address the county’s housing crisis, fund road repairs and regulate expansion of the county’s signature wine industry.

The race — the most highly watched contest for local office in the county this year — is also a stark contrast between two liberal Democrats. Evans is a longtime lawmaker with nearly two decades of experience in local and state office. Hopkins is a newcomer who jumped into politics through opposition, in part, to the scale of a tribal housing development taking root near her farm outside Windsor.

“Voters are choosing between the new kid on the block who has been able to rise out of nowhere and her seasoned opponent who is well-known and very firm in her positions,” said David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist. “In a sense, it’s going for the great unknown whose candidacy is a leap of faith, or choosing someone who is very experienced and has many supporters as well as detractors.”

Evans has received financial support from labor groups and environmentalists, including an independent campaign launched by the county’s largest labor union. Hopkins has received a large share of her financial support from wineries, business organizations and real estate groups — many of the same supporters who backed Carrillo during his 2008 and 2012 campaigns.

A Hopkins win in November would likely form a more centrist voting bloc with Supervisors David Rabbitt and James Gore. An Evans win would form a more liberal voting bloc with Supervisors Shirlee Zane and Susan Gorin.

In an Tuesday night interview, Evans said she was not surprised by the results.

“I’m really pleased; this is what we expected,” said Evans, 61. “Both Hopkins and I worked really hard. But this particular election has a lot to do with the future of Sonoma County — the struggle between those who want to develop it and those who want to preserve it and keep it a place everybody can afford to live. I’m the candidate who is going to fight for the 99 percent.”

The candidates’ financial backing has become a major issue during the run-up to Tuesday’s primary, many voters said.

“Noreen is the green candidate and she has support from labor groups and progressives. I think that’s important because it shows she won’t govern with greed or be swayed by big money donors,” said Fay Romesburg, 55, of Roseland, on Tuesday.

But Evans’ move into the district last year to run for the 5th District seat rankled some west county voters.

“It seems to me that Noreen ran just to stay in the political game,” said John Nagle, 56, on Tuesday. The Graton resident and manager in the wine industry previously backed Carrillo. “I see that as a negative. She may bring lots of political chops and experience, but the person representing the 5th District should understand the area, know the geography, know the people.”

Hopkins also moved into the district last year, before she said she decided to run for office. Nagle said her lack of experience was not a factor for him.

“Efren (Carrillo) didn’t have much experience when he ran and he’s done an amazing job,” Nagle added. “I am energized by Lynda’s intelligence and her energy. I feel that she has more of a vested interest in the future of west county.”

The 5th District spans a huge territory, stretching from west Santa Rosa to Bodega Bay and north to the Mendocino County border. It is the county’s progressive base, with the highest share of registered Democrats and strong environmental values. There are nearly 50,000 registered voters in the district.

Bill Rousseau, the county’s Registrar of Voters, projected that there would be 10,000 to 12,000 ballots left to be counted Wednesday in the 5th District race, if turnout numbers remain consistent. Late Tuesday, more than 19,600 had been tallied in the race.

Sonoma State’s McCuan said he expected the runoff between Hopkins and Evans to mobilize the west county’s progressive voters in November.

“The broader point in this race, is that it’s an awakening for west county progressives,” McCuan said.

With all 71 precincts counted Wednesday morning, together, the three other candidates in the race had 22 percent of the vote. Tom Lynch, a county planning commissioner, had 10.4 percent; Tim Sergent, a high school special education teacher, had 10.2 percent; and Marion Chase, a county social services worker, had 1.4 percent.

Marie Raude, 57, of Sebastopol, cast her vote Tuesday for Evans because of her proposals to address housing affordability.

“A lot of people cannot afford housing here,” Raude said. “I voted for Bernie because he’s addressed middle class and poverty issues for 30 years, and I feel the same way about Noreen.”

Stephen Lebbert, 62, of Sebastopol, said Evans’ state and local experience — she served a decade in the state Legislature and eight years on the Santa Rosa City Council — led him to vote for her.

“I really think we need her experience to deal with the critical issues in west county,” Lebbert said. “I understand a lot of people are motivated to vote for someone new, but with the pressures on our environment and the need for affordable housing, we need someone who has worked on those issues rather than training someone new.”

Greg Ceniceroz, 51, also of Sebastopol, said he too considers housing a critical issue.

“But I voted for Lynda because I think things aren’t working,” Ceniceroz said. “She’s not an insider. We need an outsider. There’s too much business-as-usual around here.”

Lilly Palk, 67, of Sebastopol, said she was swayed to vote for Hopkins in part, because of her business experience. She and her husband started Foggy River Farm nine years ago.

“I really like that she’s a farmer,” Palk said. “And we need someone who can juggle the needs like potholes and housing. I think she’s concerned about those major issues too.”

You can reach Staff Writer Angela Hart at 526-8503 or angela.hart@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ahartreports.

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