Gina Belforte, a third-term Rohnert Park councilwoman, is publicly laying the groundwork to run for Sonoma County’s 3rd District supervisor seat — two years before the position is on the ballot again.
Belforte told a room of more than 200 business and civic leaders this week she was running for the office currently held by Supervisor Shirlee Zane, representing central Santa Rosa and most of Rohnert Park.
In mid-January, Belforte filed paperwork allowing her to raise money for the 2020 race, county records show.
“I’ve been around for a long time, but there’s also a lot to learn,” Belforte said in an interview of her nascent candidacy. “I want to be able to put a good plan together. It’s going to be a thoughtful process. I want it to be collaborative. I want to be able to talk to everybody. So it takes time to do that.”
Belforte, 55, said she was motivated to run out of concern for the county’s financial stability, pointing specifically to the rising unfunded costs of employee pensions and the long-term budget impacts of the October wildfires. As a supervisor, Belforte hopes to tap into her experience helping improve Rohnert Park’s fiscal health since she was first elected to the City Council nearly a decade ago, she said.
Zane, 58, who has represented the 3rd District since 2009, hasn’t said whether she’ll run for a fourth term. She ran unopposed for her third term in 2016.
“There’s one thing on my mind right now: the reconstruction and the recovery of our county,” Zane said. “What I will do or will not do in 2020 is really secondary, as it should be with everyone else. I am not up for re-election right now. I think all of our energies have to focus on the rebuilding of our county, not on politics.”
The first opportunity for Belforte to file to appear on the primary ballot won’t open until the months leading up to the March 2020 primary. County primary races will be held in March rather than June starting that year because of a bill Gov. Jerry Brown signed last year in an attempt to give California more prominence in the presidential primary races.
Belforte has already filed some preliminary campaign finance forms, and late last month she held a “small gathering of close friends” to discuss her candidacy, she said.
At the Sonoma County Alliance’s monthly breakfast Wednesday, when everyone in the room introduced themselves, Belforte described herself as both a Rohnert Park councilwoman and a 2020 candidate for 3rd District supervisor.
The alliance, a local business group of about 380 members, hasn’t endorsed anyone in the 2020 race and won’t consider the matter until much closer to the primary, according to executive director Brian Ling.
The alliance supported Zane in her 2016 and 2012 campaigns.
Belforte said she didn’t have any particular criticisms of Zane’s record as supervisor.
“I don’t have an ax to grind,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of successes in Rohnert Park ... I’d like to bring our successes to the county level.”
Zane, for her part, said she hadn’t worked much with Belforte over the years. She said she had good relationships with the other four Rohnert Park council members, declining to elaborate.
While tight-lipped on her plans for 2020, Zane said she was enjoying her status as the longest-serving member of the Board of Supervisors.
“It’s really important to have that knowledge in terms of where we’ve been and where we’re going, and now even more so post-fires,” Zane said. “I do get tired of the politics. I don’t get tired of the public service.”
Two of the five county supervisors, David Rabbitt and James Gore, are up for re-election this year, and both of them have said they’re running.
No one has publicly signaled plans to challenge them in the June primary, but the nominations deadline isn’t until March 9.
You can reach Staff Writer J.D. Morris at 707-521-5337 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @thejdmorris.