Chris Smith: Frank Riggs’ latest campaign aimed high, fell back, then went sideways

Frank Riggs thought he might at last win again. Riggs, you may or may not recall, is the Army vet and former Sonoma County deputy sheriff and businessman who went into politics and in the 1990s served three on-again off-again terms representing the North Coast in Congress.

A Republican, he left the House in 1998 rather than face nearly certain defeat by Democratic challenger Mike Thompson, then a former state senator.

Riggs left California more than a decade ago, settled in Scottsdale and went to work in the charter-school world. But he’s yearned for a return to high-level political office, and has run more than once.

Last year he narrowly won the Republican primary for the office of Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction. And this past Election Day, he surged to 11,000 votes ahead of Democrat Kathy Hoffman, a 32-year-old speech therapist.

But the tide turned and Hoffman won. The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty called Hoffman’s victory “one of the most unlikely stories of an election season that has seen more than its share of them.”

How Frank Riggs, now 68, took the defeat to a millennial novice, only he knows. But he blew a cog in a Twitter volley with some detractors.

“Gutless punk” he called a political consultant who jabbed him for continuing to run for office.

When the consultant joked that they should maybe settle their differences with leg wrestling or cage fighting, Riggs replied, “Anytime. Punk. You will be embarrassed, big time. Just message me. You & your pasty ilk are welcome to join me @ 5 am for one of my daily workouts. Can you do a pull-up yet?”

After all this, Riggs’ next political campaign, if there is one, may be the workout of his life.


NONE TOO BASSOON: First off, here’s wishing a speedy recovery to musician David Barnett.

He was all set to play one of the two flute-like recorders essential to this past Friday and Saturday nights’ Sonoma Bach Choir performance of Cantata 106 when he fell ill on Tuesday.

Suddenly, the choir’s baroque orchestra needed a recorder player in the worst way. A minor miracle happened.

Gretchen Claasen, a cellist with the orchestra, happened to have a house guest from Seattle: Anna Marsh, an acclaimed professional bassoon player who performs also on the Renaissance and Baroque recorder.

What were the chances?

Marsh said she’d gladly sit in for the ailing Barnett. She borrowed a recorder and went to work rehearsing the music for choir performances at the Green Music Center’s Schroeder Hall.

And the show went on.


92 AND ITALIAN: Pino Lella, the former teen soldier who stars in the book, “Beneath A Scarlet Sky,” lives near Milan and couldn’t make it to today’s benefit event at Santa Rosa’s Piner High.

But hosts of the book talk ( got to thinking: Isn’t there hereabout a second 92-year-old from Italy who risked his life resisting Hitler’s army in World War II?

There is. Organizers of today’s 2 p.m. talk by Pino’s son, Michael Lella, asked “Pasta King” and ex-Italian freedom fighter Art Ibleto if he’d like to come and say a few words.

He would.

You can reach Staff Writer Chris Smith at 707 521-5211 and

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