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PD Editorial: David Rabbitt stands out in Sonoma County 2nd District Supervisor race

Editorials represent the views of The Press Democrat editorial board and The Press Democrat as an institution. The editorial board and the newsroom operate separately and independently of one another.

Voters in southern Sonoma County have a choice in the June 7 election: stick with an experienced supervisor or put their trust in a newcomer.

David Rabbitt, the longest serving member of the Board of Supervisors, was on the job during the Great Recession, unprecedented wildfires, punishing droughts and a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. He also helped get SMART over the starting line and the Highway 101 widening project on a path to the finish line.

Yet as he seeks a fourth four-year term, Rabbitt is facing two challengers who say he has lost touch.

Blake Hooper, a Petaluma planning commissioner, says Rabbitt is inattentive to the needs of cities and unresponsive to municipal elected officials in the 2nd District. Kevin Hayenga, a freelance video editor and Uber driver, says the county caters to developers and doesn’t do enough for poor residents.

Blake Hooper is a candidate for Sonoma County supervisor.
Blake Hooper is a candidate for Sonoma County supervisor.

Hayenga is passionate, but his grasp of county government is limited, and his proposals are short on details. Hooper, who worked for Rep. Jared Huffman and now is a state Senate employee, has an insider’s knowledge of politics and government, as well as support from progressives on the Petaluma, Rohnert Park and Cotati city councils.

However, his vision of a supervisor’s role seems narrow. In our interview with him, and on other occasions, Hooper talks at length about identifying sources of state and federal money, then notifying cities of its availability. Helping is fine, but cities have their own staff and lobbyists as well as direct interactions with state legislators and congressional representatives.

Kevin Hayenga is running for Sonoma County supervisor.
Kevin Hayenga is running for Sonoma County supervisor.

Supervisors are full-time policymakers for county government. The county is the largest local employer, with an annual budget of $2 billion and responsibility for a vast array of services, including public health and safety-net programs; land use, open space and coastal planning; parks; road maintenance; agricultural regulation; and water. The county also runs a commercial airport and manages an economic development program.

Rabbitt has focused on these duties, perhaps to his own disadvantage. Some local elected officials complain that he doesn’t promptly return calls. He ought to be accessible, and we were disappointed that Rabbitt helped scuttle a proposal to return county offices to downtown Santa Rosa. But he has delivered for his constituents, including his work on the boards of SMART and the Golden Gate Bridge. He also serves on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Regional Climate Authority and California’s Seismic Safety Commission.

Rabbitt shares credit for improving county roads and enhancing fire safety.

In October of 2010, a week before Rabbitt was first elected, the supervisors effectively abandoned almost 90% of the county’s 1,384-mile road network, voting to continue paving and maintaining just 150 miles of roads. On Rabbitt’s watch, spending on road repairs has increased tenfold. Since 2012, the county has spent more than $125 million in general fund money to improve more than 400 miles of roads — twice as much as any other California county.

In 2020, Rabbitt supported renewal of the county’s quarter-cent sales tax for transportation, ensuring a long-term source of money dedicated to repairing and repaving local roads.

Earlier this year, the supervisors approved a fire district consolidation plan that Rabbitt helped craft. These overdue mergers will reduce the number of departments from 43 to 23, cutting overhead and adding resources for fire prevention, emergency medical aid and firefighting.

Rabbitt has a record of achievements and a wealth of experience — architect, city council member, county supervisor — that set him apart from his challengers. Voters should reelect him to the Board of Supervisors.

You can send letters to the editor to letters@pressdemocrat.com.

Editorials represent the views of The Press Democrat editorial board and The Press Democrat as an institution. The editorial board and the newsroom operate separately and independently of one another.

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