Outside group ramps up anti-Noreen Evans campaign in Sonoma County supervisor race
An independent campaign supporting Lynda Hopkins in her bid for a seat on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors has launched a series of political attacks against her opponent, former state Sen. Noreen Evans, bashing her record in Sacramento and raising questions about campaign contributions she received during her decade in the state Legislature.
The group behind the mailers is bankrolled by wealthy winery owners, influential business groups and prominent real estate developers, many of whom have also contributed to Hopkins’ campaign.
The ads, including mailers and full-page advertisements in The Press Democrat, challenge Evans’ attendance record, starting in 2009, as a member of the legislative oversight committee for the California Coastal Conservancy, the state agency overseeing coastal conservation and restoration projects. They also highlight past campaign contributions she has received from special interests, including casino operators.
“We can’t just sit by on the sidelines and watch Noreen relentlessly mislead voters and try to dismantle Lynda by saying she’s green-washed, and she’s going to turn loose development and gravel mining interests on Sonoma County,” said Eric Koenigshofer, an Occidental attorney who is running the independent campaign. “That’s just nonsense.”
Donors to the group include John Dyson, proprietor of William Selyem Winery in Healdsburg, the Sonoma County Alliance, the California Real Estate political action committee and William Gallaher, founder of Oakmont Senior Living and a developer of the Bell Village housing project in Windsor.
Altogether, the campaign has raised $163,000 since it was formed on Sept. 29. It has spent more than $66,000 to date on advertisements. The campaign is independent and barred by law from coordinating with Hopkins’ campaign.
Koenigshofer indicated the group will continue to pump out ads in the run-up to the Nov. 8 election to determine who succeeds Supervisor Efren Carrillo. He called out past contributions Evans has taken from banking and oil companies, including Chevron, and multinational corporations such as Georgia Pacific Corp., the Atlanta-based building products and paper maker owned by Koch Industries, controlled by the conservative businessmen Charles and David Koch.
“I like to think what we’re doing is holding up a mirror to Noreen, and applying her standards to herself,” Koenigshofer said. “If who you take money from is some evidence of questionable conduct, then she needs to own up to her own history as a politician.”
Evans, who has been critical of Hopkins’ political backers, called the campaign a “smokescreen” for special interests seeking to influence the outcome of the race for 5th District supervisor.
“This is an obvious attempt to deflect public attention from the big bucks flowing into the Hopkins campaign and that of her supporter, Eric Koenighshofer, and it has absolutely no application to what is going on in this campaign,” Evans said. “It’s a common campaign tactic to claim the other side is doing something that they are in fact doing, and that is taking significant amounts of money from big business interests, groups opposed to rent control and those who want to restart gravel mining in the Russian River. This is nothing more than negative and deceptive campaigning.”
Hopkins, a Forestville organic farmer making her first bid for public office, has touted her desire to remain “positive” in her campaign, but she characterized the attacks against her opponent as warranted.
“There has been a tremendous onslaught against us,” Hopkins said. “Organic farming is not just a label, I’ve devoted my life to this for the past nine years, and I have received money from some of the same campaign contributors as her in the past.”
Evans said the attacks on her record in state office reflect the high stakes in a contest to decide who holds a seat that could determine the board’s direction on high-profile issues, including tighter limits on wineries and development of affordable housing.
Evans defended her record as one of six members of the legislative oversight committee for the state Coastal Conservancy. She acknowledged missing some meetings, but she and others said regular attendance was not expected from the legislative members.
“I wasn’t a voting member, and I wasn’t supposed to go to Coastal Conservancy meetings. Had I attended them, I would have actually missed my work in the state Capitol, where I had voting responsibilities,” Evans said. “So this attack is a complete fabrication and it’s an attempt to smear my reputation with voters, who I have served for 20 years.”