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Challenger leads in five-way race for two Sebastopol City Council seats; second-place position close

For 2020 election results, go here.

A five-way race for two open seats on the Sebastopol City Council remained tight Wednesday morning, with three candidates pulling ahead, led by challenger Diana Rich, the former executive director of the Sebastopol Community Cultural Center, who had slightly more than 30% of the vote.

Councilwoman Neysa Hinton and Evaristo “Evert” Fernandez, chair of the city Planning Commission, were in a tight contest for second place and a seat on the council.

Each had just over 25% of the vote and were separated by only 19 votes Wednesday morning.

“It was a tough race, and everybody worked hard,” Hinton said. “It’s going to be close, and it’s going to be undecided for a while, I guess.”

Councilman Michael Carnacchi and challenger Vaughn Higgenbotham, both of whom ran low-key campaigns, trailed in the results, with 10% and 9% of the vote, respectively.

It’s an unusual race for Sebastopol that has two incumbents facing three challengers, potentially remaking a minority of the five-member council.

Carnacchi, 58, who won election in 2016 and who describes himself as an independent, has often voted against the council majority. As with his first campaign, he did not produce any election materials and said in his ballot statement, “I will be honored to serve again if reelected, but I will not actively campaign for the office.”

Hinton was the top vote-getter in her first council election in 2016. This campaign, while run respectfully and, by all accounts, free of acrimony among the candidates, found Hinton wrestling in ways not typical of local incumbents — including the fact that her three council colleagues endorsed two challengers in the race, Fernandez, 60, and Rich, 61.

Hinton drew wide support from elected officials from around Sonoma County. But she said she faced criticism for two recent decisions in which she agreed in principle with the council majority but had nagging questions at the time the vote was taken that led some to view her as being out of step.

“I guess I have a reputation for not rubber-stamping issues,” Hinton said. “I don’t want to rubber-stamp things. I want to ask questions. I feel like that’s what my job is: to ask questions.”

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

For 2020 election results, go here.

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