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Zane, Coursey tussle over endorsements as Sonoma supervisor field set for March election

And then there were six.

With a campaign finance violation and a filing deadline come and gone, the race for three Sonoma County supervisor seats has officially kicked off with the incumbents each facing a challenger. Supervisors Shirlee Zane, Susan Gorin and Lynda Hopkins will face former Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey, Sonoma councilman David Cook and Michael Hilber, respectively.

Three others started the process of running for supervisor, but they did not file the necessary paperwork by the Dec. 6 deadline. They included Sonoma County Republican Party-endorsed Phil Johnson, who could have played spoiler for Zane and Coursey, and state PTA President Dianna MacDonald, who could have offered Gorin another challenger.

Instead, Gorin’s lone challenger is Cook, who was hit by the state with a campaign violation and a $500 fine on Nov. 21 after his campaign did not file his finance reports on time. His campaign also failed to file a candidate intention statement before taking money related to the election.

Reached for comment Thursday, Cook blamed the violation on Gorin’s campaign, saying Gorin’s husband filed a complaint against him.

“We took care of it,” Cook said. “It was a bookkeeping error.”

The error cost Cook 30% of the money he had raised during the filing period, as his campaign had taken in just $1,700 by June 30. Cook has loaned his own campaign another $6,100.

Hopkins’ opponent, Hilber, has no plans to raise money for his campaign, saying in a phone interview Thursday that he’ll go door-to-door and offer another choice on the ballot.

Hilber once filed a complaint with the California Secretary of State’s office over ballot language used in a sales tax measure, and said he doesn’t support Sonoma County supervisors’ participation on boards like Sonoma Clean Power and SMART, calling it a conflict of interest.

The simple, two-person races guarantee a short election cycle, as the March primary will sort out the winners with no need to run another election in November.

Campaigns are gearing up now.

Coursey’s campaign planned to order yard signs this past weekend, and is asking for $10 donations to cover the cost.

Zane said her camp is working every day, adding that people are more appreciative of their door-to-door walking campaign on cold, rainy days.

Hopkins said she has no real plan to campaign, opting to point to her record instead.

“I am really hoping the work I’ve done in the community will serve as my campaign,” Hopkins said.

Zane and Coursey have also recently finished collecting endorsements, and they touted them in candidate statements filed with the County Clerk’s office.

Zane counts as supporters U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, and the majority of the Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park city councils.

She also earned labor endorsements from the North Bay Trades Council, SEIU and the National Union of Healthcare Workers.

Coursey tallied up more than 300 community leaders and organizations, including the Sierra Club, Sonoma County Conservation Action, 15 current and former mayors, and Wine Country Young Voters. Both the Sierra Club and Sonoma County Conservation Action endorsed Zane when she was first elected in 2008.

Zane called the Conservation Action process “deeply flawed,” saying some board members had already endorsed Coursey.

Neither could secure a Sonoma County Democrats endorsement. Coursey said he earned 62% of central committee votes, but two-thirds are required to secure an endorsement.

Zane didn’t dispute the percentage, but said Coursey’s camp revealing the vote was “ridiculous.”

“They made a decision not to endorse anybody,” Zane said. “It’s irrelevant. It’s splitting hairs.”

Coursey called it a win.

“I think that says a lot,” Coursey said about his strong showing with the Sonoma County Democrats.

You can reach Staff Writer Tyler Silvy at 707-526-8667 or at tyler.silvy@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @tylersilvy.

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