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Longtime Rohnert Park City Council members defeated in new district elections

For 2020 election results, go here.

Challengers upset two longtime Rohnert Park City Council members Tuesday night in a historic race that will bring more diversity to an all-white council.

Under legal threats to add diversity with a growing Latino population, the election featured three geographically defined district seats. A city of about 44,000 residents, Rohnert Park in recent years has been a hub of development within Sonoma County, with many housing units built.

In the biggest shock of the night, Jackie Elward, 41, defeated longtime council member Jake Mackenzie by a 56% to 44% margin for the District 4 seat that covers the city’s northeastern corner.

“People have been waiting for change,” Elward said.

Elward was raised in the Democratic Republic of Congo and has been an organizer in local Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

Mackenzie, 81, who serves as vice mayor as well as a representative on many regional transportation boards, had emphasized his experience on budget matters as the city faces a shortfall as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Another incumbent councilman, Mayor Joe Callinan, found himself well behind challenger Gerard Giudice for the District 3 seat, with Guidice securing 60% of the votes to Callinan’s 40% with 92% of precincts reporting by early Wednesday morning. Callinan is in his first contested race since he was elected in 2008 for the new district seat, which represents the east side where many of the new housing projects have been built.

Callinan, 60, who owns and operates a residential and light commercial construction firm, campaigned on making further inroads into developing more sections of the city, especially for its long-planned downtown center.

Giudice, 58, co-owner of Sally Tomatoes and Heirloom Cafe, pitched himself as someone who would make inclusiveness and diversity a focal point of his service.

In the District 1 race, Willy Linares, 35, a member of the Rohnert Park-Cotati Latino Alliance who works in marketing, defeated Dave Soldavini, 59, a business sales manager by a 62% to 38% margin. The district is located in the city’s southwestern side that borders Highway 101. Linares, who is of Guatemalan descent, said he would focus on the city’s vulnerable population as he grew up in a low-income household.

Not on the ballot: two council members — Susan Hollingsworth Adams and Pam Stafford — who were allowed to serve out the remaining two years on their at-large seats. However, veteran council member Gina Belforte was unable to run for reelection because the district where she lives was not included among the three up for election this year.

For 2020 election results, go here.

Bill Swindell

Business, Beer and Wine, The Press Democrat  

In the North Coast, we are surrounded by hundreds of wineries along with some of the best breweries, cidermakers and distillers. These industries produce an abundance of drinks as well as good stories – and those are what I’m interested in writing. I also keep my eye on our growing cannabis industry and other agricultural crops, which have provided the backbone for our food-and-wine culture for generations.

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