Races for city councils in Sonoma County take shape

The field of candidates for city council races across Sonoma County was set Wednesday, with Santa Rosa posting the largest number of candidates.

Nine hopefuls will vie for four open Santa Rosa seats in a race that will determine whether candidates backed by business interests can hold onto or even strengthen the 4-3 majority snatched back from progressives two years ago.

The race, which includes a mix of newcomers and those who have sought office several times, is expected to be competitive and contentious.

Nine candidates had qualified for the ballot by submitting petitions with the required 20 signatures by 5:30 p.m., City Clerk Terri Griffin said.

The highest-profile candidates in the race are Mayor Ernesto Olivares, a retired police lieutenant and the city's first Latino mayor, and Councilman Gary Wysocky, the top vote getter in the 2008 contest and a sharp critic of the current majority.

Others qualifying for the ballot include:

Santa Rosa Planning Commissioner and former homeless services administrator Caroline Ba?elos, 52, who ran unsuccessfully for the council in 2004 and 2006.

Local attorney Erin Carlstrom, 29. She serves as a member of the city's Measure O Oversight Committee.

Landscape architect Mike Cook, 33, is a former member of the city's Design Review Board.

Neighborhood activist Julie Combs, 56, is a member of the Community Advisory Board representing the city's southeast region.

Hans Dippel, 51, is a longtime winery consultant with a Cotati-based winery supply company. He was on the ballot in 2008 but didn't run a formal campaign.

Omelette Express owner Don Taylor, 53, is running for council for the fourth time.

And Shaan Vandenburg, 47, is a plant operator at Syar Industries Inc. asphalt plant in Santa Rosa.

Two potential candidates never filed the required papers. Chucker Sims, 59, withdrew from the race, and 27-year-old Justin Yock-Davis never returned his petition.

The deadline to file papers for the city council races in six cities was extended to Wednesday because an incumbent did not file for re-election.

In Sebastopol, incumbent Councilwoman Kathleen Shaffer and challengers Kathy Austin, Robert Jacob, John Eder and Colleen Fernald are running for two seats.

In Healdsburg, incumbent Council Members Tom Chambers and Gary Plass and challengers Vern Simmons, Shaun McCaffery, Timothy Meinken and Dennis Brown qualified to run for three open seats.

In Sonoma, Councilwoman Laurie Gallian, David Cook, Cameron Stuckey and Madolyn Agrimonti are running for two seats.

In Windsor, Mayor Debora Fudge and Bruce Okrepkie are running for two seats.

In Cotati, incumbent Council Members John Dell'Osso and Mayor Susan Harvey and challengers George Barich and Wendy Skillman are running for three seats.

The filing deadline had closed for Cloverdale, Petaluma and Rohnert Park, where all of the incumbents are seeking re-election.

In Rohnert Park, Council Members Gina Belforte, Joseph Callinan and Jake Mackenzie will run unopposed.

Petaluma Council Members Mike Healy, Tiffany Renee and Gabe Kearney will seek re-election. They are being challenged by Kathy Miller, Alicia Kae Herries and Jason Davies.

Cloverdale incumbents Robert Cox and Gus Wolter will vie for re-election to their two seats, challenged by former Councilwoman Mary Ann Brigham.

(You can reach Staff Writers Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or and Bob Norberg at or 521-5206.)

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