Susan Gorin won, Gina Cuclis was second, and Keith Rhinehart came in last place with 10 percent of the vote. The Sonoma County First Supervisorial District election is over and the incumbent goes on for another four years.
Gorin seemed confident on election day, already pulling her “Vote for Gorin” signs and seeming very relaxed when she dropped by the Kenwood Press office that morning. And while Gorin certainly had more money to spend – roughly $150,000 to Cuclis’ approximately $80,000, money doesn’t seem to have been the deciding factor. The final financial figures won’t be in until the end of July, but these are representative numbers.
Gina Cuclis had been running for the office since she lost the 2012 primary, coming in third in a crowded field of six vying to replace three-term incumbent Valerie Brown, the first time in 20 years an incumbent or appointed incumbent wasn’t running. Cuclis campaigned hard and long, attending dozens of meetings and events, pushing her agenda to become a supervisor who lives in the unincorporated part of the district.
“I’m proud of the campaign we ran, an issue oriented campaign,” Cuclis said. “I made a point about running to represent everybody.”
Cuclis is currently chair of the Sonoma County Board of Education, but intends to run again for the board this fall, as her term is up. She will also continue working to promote her other issues.
“I will continue to be an advocate for improving the roads,” she said. “Don’t let the Board of Supervisors forget roads are a top priority.”
But a vacation is in the works this summer. “I may be more selective about going to meetings and using my time.”
While Keith Rhinehart refused to raise money from interest groups, he did manage to spend $400 to capture 10 percent of the vote.
“That comes to about 14¢ a vote,” he pointed out. Rhinehart espouses a low-involvement, Libertarian stance to government, but would really like to see a better system of campaign finance.
“I remain hopeful that, as social media and the internet continue to grow in creativity and outreach, and gain greater acceptance as a viable tool for communication, all future candidates will be able to conduct robust campaigns that will lessen the negative impact of excessive campaign funding.”
Who backs candidates has become more of an issue in political campaigns over the years, and this local election was no different. Gorin and Cuclis swapped barbs over union support (for Gorin) and development backing (pretty fairly distributed between Cuclis and Gorin) and Rhinehart’s outright refusal to take money from any organized backers.
Sonoma County supervisors are frequently seen as representing either growth or slow-growth elements of the regional economy, with conflicting opinions over current issues of winery expansion, rural events, regulation enforcement, traffic, affordable housing, community separators, urban growth boundaries, district vs. general elections (Santa Rosa and Santa Rosa Junior College), and just about any other policy issue that pops up.
The Fifth District Supervisorial election will move on to November, with West County voters faced with a much clearer choice between Noreen Evans (supported by slow growth interests) and Lynda Hopkins (pro-growth interests), the prize being the outcome of future Board of Supervisors votes.
Measure AA, designed to raise a lot of money to help preserve the San Francisco and San Pablo bays against rising oceans and repair a century of damage to wetlands and other bay front depredations, passed with a slim margin, requiring two-thirds of the total majority in the entire nine-county district. It failed in Sonoma County, with just 63.1 percent, but carried Bay-wide.
The measure places a $12 per year parcel tax in the nine Bay Area counties that is expected to raise about $25 million a year. An early recipient of those funds could be re-engineering Highway 37 as an elevated four-lane causeway to avoid expected sea level rises in coming years.
In national races, Democrats Clinton and Sanders were pretty much neck and neck, with Hillary dead even in the Second Congressional District (Huffman), but leading in the Fifth (Thompson), with a minimal overall win for the entire county.
On the Republican side, Donald Trump took mid-60s percentages against his closest rival, John Kasich (17 percent).
Voters supported Fifth District Congressman Mike Thompson (Dem-St. Helena) with 67.3 percent. He will face number two vote getter Republican Carlos Santamaria in November.
In the Fourth District Assembly race, which affects Kenwood and Oakmont residents, Democrat Cecilia M. Aguiar-Curry will face off against Republican Charlie Schaupp.
In the Third District California Senate race to replace termed-out Lois Wolk, Bill Dodd will run against Mariko Yamada in November. Both are Democrats.
Finally, Kamala Harris will run in November against fellow Democrat Loretta Sanchez for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by long-time incumbent Barbara Boxer.
About 350,000 of the county’s 500,000 people are eligible to vote; about 250,000 of those are registered to vote; and about 125,000 people actually voted, with just over 90,000 of those being absentee votes.
A last-minute rush of absentee ballots turned in on election day means that many of the absentee votes have yet to be counted, although election officials do not believe any races will be affected by the final count, which is due by July 15.