Drought, affordability, transit drive race for 4th District Sonoma County supervisor
Voters from north Santa Rosa to the Sonoma-Mendocino county border are beginning to weigh in on their choice for 4th District supervisor in a race between incumbent James Gore and political newcomer Richard “Andy” Springer.
Gore, 44, is seeking election to a third term, touting 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.
“It’s been an honor to have my hands on the wheel in these stormy times and we’ve got more work to do and I’m confident in where we’re at with fire preparedness, risk reduction, flood control, water security,” Gore said. “These are the core issues that are going to define the future for Sonoma County.”
Springer, 51, a local businessman and pastor, is running for elected office for the first time and has based his campaign on a pledge to being inclusive and responsive to 4th District constituents and his belief in limited government.
Springer, who declined an interview for this story, has previously said that California’s increasing cost of living inspired him to run for office.
He is the first candidate to challenge Gore since Gore’s first run for office in 2014, when he prevailed over longtime Windsor Councilwoman Deb Fudge, former Healdsburg Mayor Pete Foppiano and former UPS supervisor and part-time teacher Keith Rhinehart.
Springer has cast his candidacy to appeal to voters frustrated with the current group of elected leaders and looking to send a message, said David McCuan, chair of Sonoma State University’s Political Science Department.
“He attracts the base protest vote and that base protest vote does exist up there and has a history,” McCuan said, referring to northern Sonoma County.
He noted that protest politics do not translate easily to elected office even if it does get candidates elected.
“Then you have to make the trains run on time and that’s where the politics of protest break down,” McCuan said.
Faced with unseating a seasoned incumbent, Springer’s success in campaigning will come down to campaign muscle, McCuan said.
“Do you have any resources and an organization that can deliver?” he said.
The money race between the two candidates is not close, although each raised similar amounts in the latest period, from Jan. 1 to April 23.
Gore’s campaign reported $19,510, topping Springer’s campaign, which reported raising $18,440.
Gore, however, has a far deeper pool of cash at his disposal. His latest campaign filings showed $140,735 in cash on hand. Springer, who entered the race in February, showed no additional cash reserves beyond the contributions from the recent period.
Election Day is June 7. While most Sonoma County voters will cast ballots by mail, the first in-person voting centers open May 28.
Drought is one of the many urgent problems facing the county, and the 4th District takes in some of the most water-strained communities. Cloverdale and Healdsburg saw their rights to pull water from the Russian River suspended last year, spurring sharp limits for residents.
Rural residents dependent on well water and farming interests have shouldered some of the heaviest impacts.
For the 4th District, spanning some of the county’s prime grape growing regions, and Sonoma County as a whole, water scarcity is the fundamental issue, Gore said. It influences fire resiliency and development, he added.
“Without water security none of these other issues are relevant,” Gore said. “Communities are built on water.”
Gore pointed to efforts to expand use of recycled water in Healdsburg, and initial work to expand groundwater recharge by flooding streamside agricultural lands and undeveloped floodplain.
Rural residents and commercial users operating on well water are facing the prospect of new fees to support groundwater monitoring — a result of a landmark state law ushered in by the last drought.
Supervisor David Rabbitt, who is up for reelection in south county, has proposed using local government funds to continue to cover the cost of those regulatory fees for rural residents.
Gore said he may support such a move for a few years, but ultimately believes areas should be “self-sufficient.”
“Long-term sustainability, it’s the actualization of those plans, not how you fund it or who you fund it through,” Gore said.
Conflicts of interest
Springer has sought to chip away at Gore’s base in part by echoing complaints and questions that have dogged Gore over the years about potential conflicts of interest arising from his family’s involvement in the local wine and cannabis industries.