Voter guide: A look at the key Sonoma County elections appearing on Tuesday’s ballot

A roundup of all the local races appearing on Tuesday’s ballot.|

Election Day is Tuesday

Registered voters can cast their ballots either by mail-in-ballot or by voting at one of the county’s 31 voting centers. Already open for early voting, the centers will be open until 8 p.m. Election Day.

The county’s switch to voting centers from assigned polling locations will offer those wishing to vote in person more days to do so, without limiting them to use of assigned, precinct-based polling places.

Voting center and ballot drop box locations can be found on the Sonoma County Registrar of Voters website here.

Same-day registration is available at all voting center locations, allowing use of a provisional ballot.

When they cast ballots on Tuesday, Sonoma County voters will decide the outcome of contested races for several key county leadership positions, including sheriff, county supervisor, district attorney and county schools superintendent.

(Press Democrat voting guide for the June 7 election)

Vote centers will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. For vote center and drop box locations go here.

Sheriff

The heated race for Sonoma County sheriff has dominated the election in recent months, both because it’s only the second contested sheriff’s race in the county since 1990 and because years of political controversy at the Sheriff’s Office and the national Black Lives Matter movement have sharpened the spotlight on local law enforcement.

Assistant Sheriff Eddie Engram, former Sheriff’s Capt. Dave Edmonds and former San Francisco police Sgt. Carl Tennenbaum are jockeying for the county’s top policing job.

Community relationships; transparency and oversight; diversity; and a concerted response to homelessness and opioid overdoses have emerged as the expected key issues for voters.

Touting his years of experience at the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, Engram has positioned himself as the candidate with the most in-depth understanding of the department’s responsibilities and community needs. Engram has largely shied away from directly criticizing the department and outgoing Sheriff Mark Essick, saying the agency has made positive changes over the last decade.

Edmonds has used his 2013 retirement to distance himself from the current office and cast himself as an outsider able to bring change, but has referred to his years working for the department as evidence of his understanding of the sheriff’s job.

Throughout his campaign, Edmonds has repeatedly called for leadership changes at the top of the department.

Tennenbaum has made police reform a cornerstone of his platform. As the only candidate who has not worked for the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, Tennenbaum has also cast himself as a change-maker.

To avoid a runoff election in November, the winning candidate must receive more than 50% of ballots cast.

County supervisor

The race for 2nd District supervisor in south Sonoma County also has been a hotly contested election.

Incumbent David Rabbitt is seeking reelection for a fourth term against Petaluma Planning Commissioner Blake Hooper and Kevin Hayenga, a freelance video editor and Uber driver.

In recent weeks, the candidates have sparred over leadership experience and endorsements, but quality of life issues like housing, transportation and drought have dominated the discourse among voters.

All three candidates are registered Democrats, but Hooper and Hayenga have positioned themselves as progressive alternatives to Rabbitt, who has a more centrist political identity.

Hooper and Hayenga are running for elected office for the first time, and Hayenga’s low-profile bid and commitment to run without campaign donations has made him the longer shot of the two rivals.

Hooper, a former staffer for Rep. Jared Huffman, has painted Rabbitt as out of touch and inaccessible to constituents, while emphasizing the need for stronger partnership between county and city governments. He has garnered support from several city councilors in District 2 and progressive interest groups, including the Sonoma County Democratic Party, the North Bay Labor Council and Sonoma County Conservation Action.

Rabbitt in turn has pointed to his record pushing for extra county spending on road repairs, as well as the county’s bid to modernize and consolidate its expansive network of rural fire districts. He has also picked up endorsements from the county’s state lawmakers, unions representing sheriff’s deputies and firefighters; trade groups for builders and real estate interests; and support from the Sonoma County Farm Bureau and Santa Rosa Metro Chamber.

The Sonoma County Democratic Party, Sonoma County Conservation Action and North Bay Labor Council recently accused a local interest committee, called the Budget Priorities Committee in Support of Rabbitt for District 2 Supervisor 2022, of violating state and local campaign disclosure requirements.

The complaint, filed with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission and Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office, claims the committee did not properly disclose its top donors or display a disclaimer on its political mailings.

“These rules are set for a reason and that reason is so there is full transparency,” representatives of the Sonoma County Democratic Party, Sonoma County Conservation Action and North Bay Labor Council said in a press release.

Jonathan Kathrein, treasurer for the budget priorities committee, called the complaint a distraction from the election and noted that the committee’s donors are disclosed online.

“Anybody can file a complaint and we want to keep the focus on the campaigns,” Kathrein said.

The committee’s donors include Community Futures LLC; California Real Estate Political Action Committee; James Ratto, president of The Ratto Group of Companies, Inc.; and the Sonoma Alliance for Vineyards and the Environment Political Action Committee.

Though also contested, the race for 4th District Supervisor has been comparatively quiet.

Incumbent Supervisor James Gore is seeking reelection to a third term against local pastor and businessperson Richard “Andy” Springer.

Springer, a political newcomer who is running for elected office for the first time, has focused his campaign on the high cost of living in California, a need for inclusivity and his belief in limited government.

He is the first candidate to challenge Gore, since Gore first ran for office in 2014 when he defeated Windsor Council Member Deb Fudge, former Healdsburg Mayor Pete Foppiano and former UPS supervisor and part-time teacher Keith Rhinehart.

In his reelection bid, Gore has touted his experience helping the county through consecutive disasters and his advocacy for county investments in the Office of Equity, improved emergency response systems and the bolstering of water infrastructure.

Superintendent of schools

The race for Sonoma County superintendent of schools rounds out the list of contested races for top-ranked elected positions that voters will decide Tuesday.

Amie Carter, assistant superintendent of education services for the Marin County Office of Education; Brad Coscarelli, principal of Hidden Valley Elementary School; and Ron Calloway, superintendent of the Mark West Union School District are vying for the county’s top education post.

California’s county superintendents of schools are responsible for overseeing local school districts’ fiscal stability and services provided by the county office of education, including special education and other academic support.

A self-described “crusader,” Carter has campaigned on her years of experience as a classroom teacher, principal and assistant superintendent, and as a mother whose children came up through Petaluma’s school system.

Key issues on Carter’s radar include diversifying the teacher workforce, expanding Sonoma County’s Portrait of a Graduate program, increasing student engagement and advocating for increased education funding while emphasizing efficient use of limited dollars.

Coscarelli’s resume includes working as teacher at Herbert Slater Middle School, then as principal of Santa Rosa High School and, since 2018, as principal of Hidden Valley Elementary.

Throughout his campaign, he has emphasized the need for relationship building with school leaders and families to increase the chances of success for a greater number of students in Sonoma County.

Calloway’s 30-year career includes time spent working as a teacher and principal before stepping into his current role leading the Mark West district.

His priorities include bolstering social emotional supports for local students, particularly in light of recent years of upheaval from natural disasters and the pandemic, and supporting early literacy to boost academic outcomes.

Other races

Voters will also find a few uncontested races for key county positions on the ballot, including Sonoma County district attorney.

Sonoma County Deputy District Attorney Carla Rodriguez is seeking election to be the county’s leading prosecutor, replacing Jill Ravitch who is retiring at the end of her term. Ravitch has endorsed Rodriguez for the role.

Rodriquez has worked for the district attorney’s office for 24 years, according to her campaign website, and has handled a range of cases, including homicides, sexual assault, domestic violence, child molestation, environmental protection and mental health.

Deva Proto, the county’s clerk-recorder-assessor, and Erick Roeser, the county’s auditor-controller-treasurer-tax collector, are also running for reelection. Both are unopposed.

You can reach Staff Writer Emma Murphy at 707-521-5228 or emma.murphy@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MurphReports.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been revised to more accurately describe the county superintendent of schools’ post, which is responsible for a state-charted agency.

Election Day is Tuesday

Registered voters can cast their ballots either by mail-in-ballot or by voting at one of the county’s 31 voting centers. Already open for early voting, the centers will be open until 8 p.m. Election Day.

The county’s switch to voting centers from assigned polling locations will offer those wishing to vote in person more days to do so, without limiting them to use of assigned, precinct-based polling places.

Voting center and ballot drop box locations can be found on the Sonoma County Registrar of Voters website here.

Same-day registration is available at all voting center locations, allowing use of a provisional ballot.

Emma Murphy

County government, politics reporter

The decisions of Sonoma County’s elected leaders and those running county government departments impact people’s lives in real, direct ways. Your local leaders are responsible for managing the county’s finances, advocating for support at the state and federal levels, adopting policies on public health, housing and business — to name a few — and leading emergency response and recovery.
As The Press Democrat’s county government and politics reporter, my job is to spotlight their work and track the outcomes.

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