Lynda Hopkins edges Noreen Evans in campaign contributions for 5th District Sonoma County supervisor
Noreen Evans and Lynda Hopkins, two leading candidates in the highly watched race to succeed Efren Carrillo on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, are neck-and-neck in fundraising, amassing more than $100,000 each since the beginning of the year, according to the latest campaign finance reports.
Hopkins, an organic farmer who has never held elected office, raised $117,763 from Jan. 1 through the period ending April 23.
Evans, an attorney and former state legislator, raised $111,615 over the same period, campaign finance reports show.
The slight edge held by Hopkins is noteworthy, according to David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist.
“The fact that this young person who is new to politics has outraised the more experienced candidate represents a huge shift in this race,” McCuan said. “It shows that she's willing to take lots of different money to make a splash. She's out there hustling, and all this money is helping introduce herself to people.”
Altogether, Hopkins has raised $138,012 since she entered the race in November. About $20,000 of that money came in the first month of the campaign, before Evans formally entered the race in January. Some of Hopkins' largest contributions have come from winery executives, the real estate industry and construction groups, while Evans has received major support from labor unions and environmentalists.
The other candidates in the race to represent the county's 5th District, stretching from west Santa Rosa, to Bodega Bay and north to Mendocino County, include Tim Sergent, a special education teacher in Santa Rosa; Tom Lynch, Carrillo's appointee to the planning commission; and Marion Chase, a county social services worker.
Sergent has raised $10,407 and Lynch has raised $1,670, according to campaign finance reports. Chase said she raised $100.
So far, total expenditures in the race have hit $187,000. Hopkins has spent $87,946 and accrued $10,130 in debt, while Evans has spent $89,334.
The figures, which constitute the first full of campaign finance reports released this year, come amid an intensifying debate among the candidates, and in the public, about the influence of special interests in the race.
Evans has publicly criticized Hopkins over the groups and individuals contributing to her campaign, and moderators at recent candidates forums have questioned candidates about contributions from interest groups.
“How do you propose to deal with the pressure to produce votes for the real estate, vintners and business groups that are heavily funding you,” the moderator at a recent Bodega Bay forum asked Hopkins.
Hopkins responded first by touting the number of small donations she has received.
“I have built a truly grassroots, ground-up campaign. I try to disassociate myself from money as much as possible,” she told a crowd of about 200 people April 22 at the Bodega Bay Grange. She told of a donation from a woman who handed her a check with a stack of photos of homeless people in Guerneville.
“She saved up $500 to give it to me on my birthday …and said ‘I want you to not forget this when you're elected,'?” Hopkins said. “It brought tears to my eyes. … That $500 check is the only check I have received that has meant something to me.”
She summed up her answer, saying “There is no quid pro quo.”
Evans followed up on that interchange to repeat a message she has emphasized on the campaign trail.
“I would really urge everybody before you vote to take a look at who is supporting the candidates,” Evans said to the crowd. “Perhaps Ms. Hopkins doesn't know this because she's distancing herself from money, but her campaign got $10,000 from the construction and development industry yesterday alone.”
Evans, however, has defended herself against similar criticism about the influence of organized labor and other major backers of her campaign.
“These are working people and those who are fighting to preserve our county and our way of life,” Evans said in an interview. “Fifth District voters are understandably concerned about the outsized influence of the wine industry, developers and real estate interests on this county. Discounting that displays a lack of understanding about the history of this county, and the struggle between those who would preserve it and those who would develop it.”
Hopkins said she disagrees, and has sought to downplay on the campaign trail the effect of traditional political rifts on the county going forward.
“I have a broad array of support,” she said in an interview. “I think that the whole idea that money buys influence is a false argument. I want to truly listen to everybody.”
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