Jack Piccinini, veteran Santa Rosa firefighter, enters Sonoma County supervisor race
Jack Piccinini, a Santa Rosa Fire Department battalion chief and four-decade veteran in local fire services, announced Friday that he is entering the race for the 5th District Sonoma County supervisor’s seat, two days after the incumbent, Efren Carrillo, said he will not seek re-election.
Piccinini, a 59-year-old political newcomer and lifelong Sebastopol-area resident, contrasted his west county roots with former state Sen. Noreen Evans, a Democratic political heavyweight who moved last month to Sebastopol from her home in eastern Santa Rosa.
It was Evans’ entry, announced on Jan. 12, that prompted him to consider running, said Piccinini, who is also a longtime Sebastopol volunteer firefighter.
“I felt like somebody needed to step up,” he said. “I didn’t want a professional politician to engineer their way into the 5th District.”
But if Carrillo had sought a third term on the Board of Supervisors, Piccinini said he would not have declared his candidacy in a race that promises to be the most contested - and costly - local political battle of 2016.
Carrillo, 34, who had faced waning political support in the aftermath of two alcohol-fueled arrests since 2012, acknowledged that turmoil after announcing this week that he would not seek re-election to the west county seat.
The only other confirmed candidate for the office is Lynda Hopkins, 32, a Forestville resident and independent farmer who announced her bid about two months ago.
The 5th District stretches from west Santa Rosa to Sebastopol and north to the Mendocino County border.
Money looms as the major challenge for all the announced candidates except Evans, an attorney who served 8 years on the Santa Rosa City Council and 10 years in the state Legislature before opting not to seek re-election to the Senate in 2014.
Evans can likely raise as much as $500,000 for the supervisorial campaign, said David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist, who figures it will take a minimum of $100,000 and more like $250,000 to be competitive in both the June primary and November run-off between the top two vote-getters.
“I don’t see him (Piccinini) raising that kind of money,” McCuan said, noting that only five months remain until the June election.
Piccinini said Friday he is just beginning to plot a campaign, including the selection of a political consultant. His advisers have told him that a strong bid for the office would cost about $300,000.
Piccinini joined the Santa Rosa Fire Department in 1974, the same year he graduated from Sebastopol’s Analy High School. He has served as a battalion chief since 1984, and was runner-up - out of 75 original applicants - for the Sonoma County fire chief job that went to Al Terrell in 2013.
He was paid nearly $162,000 in 2014, plus about $58,000 in overtime, mostly due to assignments to wildland fires around the state.
Base pay for county supervisors is nearly $142,000 per year.
Other potential rivals in the race include Eric Koenigshofer, 65, a close Carrillo adviser who represented the 5th District on the Board of Supervisors 35 years ago. He has said he would run for the job if Carrillo did not. Koenigshofer, an Occidental attorney, declined to make his entrance into the race official this week but he signaled that he intends to make that announcement soon.
With Carrillo’s departure, business and agricultural groups lack a standard-bearer in the west county race. That support could pass to Koenigshofer if he runs, or to Piccinini, who both have signaled they intend to hammer Evans on the “carpet-bagging issue,” said McCuan.
Evans has an established political niche as a pro-labor, environmental candidate who has “cleared the field on the left,” McCuan said.
Hopkins, meanwhile, has voiced a keen interest in environmental issues while signaling that she would seek support from the business and farming community. She might “fly under the radar” and advance from the primary, McCuan said.
The controversial Dairyman winery project on Highway 12 near Sebastopol looms as a “litmus test” for the candidates, McCuan said, referring to the proposed 500,000-case facility that has riled many west county residents and environmentalists.
The project, proposed by Joe Wagner, a member of the Caymus Vineyards winemaking family, could be problematic for Piccinini, who is “going to have neighbors who are all over the issue,” McCuan said.
As a supervisor, Piccinini said he would seek to balance the interests of environmentalists, agricultural industries and developers focused on west Santa Rosa. He said he would pay special attention to Roseland, where he was first stationed as a Santa Rosa firefighter, noting that part of the area is scheduled for annexation by the city and part will remain under county jurisdiction.