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Letter from JBC International CEO Confirms James Gore was never a lobbyist

Click here to read the letter from JBC International CEO James B. Clawson confirming James Gore was never a lobbyist.

The Press Democrat Endorses James Gore for Supervisor

Let’s be clear. The election to fill the 4th District vacancy on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors is not about economic development. It’s not about growth, and it’s not about the drought. On those issues, there’s little daylight between Windsor City Councilwoman Deb Fudge and former Department of Agriculture official James Gore.

It’s also not about whether Gore was a real registered lobbyist before accepting an appointment as assistant chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Washington, D.C.

Despite being the focus of pro-Fudge independent expenditure committee ads, this is largely an irrelevant issue given that White House lawyers already had cleared Gore on that front prior to his appointment, and there is no prohibition against supervisors serving as lobbyists anyway.

This race, in our view, is about financial management and accountability. It’s about which candidate is better prepared to lead the county as it emerges from the economic doldrums and faces a critical juncture where it can either learn from the mistakes of the past or repeat them. It’s about who is more inclined to confront the county’s ongoing pension problems and not be swayed by arguments that there’s no need for further reform. (Annual pension costs have increased from $25 million in 2002 to $117 million and are expected to grow to $200 million by 2020. Meanwhile, the county’s unfunded liability stands at about $300 million.)

For these reasons, we give our support to James Gore.

Fudge, 58, is certainly well known having been on the Windsor Town Council for 18 years and having served on many boards including those for SMART and the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency. As we said in supporting her for supervisor four years ago, she has been a dedicated and hard-working public servant for years. But this time around, Fudge is heavily supported by labor unions and has already signed pledges to groups such as the Service Employees International Union which raise concerns about her independence. Equally concerning is her pledge to support project labor agreements.

Project labor agreements are a management system that essentially binds workers to union rules, benefits and oversight. Under pressure from labor groups, supervisors in January voted to impose project labor agreements on projects of more than $10 million. Supervisors David Rabbitt and Efren Carrillo proposed an alternative bidding process that would have allowed nonunion contractors to compete on certain qualifying projects. But, without explanation, their colleagues, all of whom are backed by labor groups, rejected the compromise. It’s this kind of blind allegiance that should give voters pause — and should move them to support Gore.

Gore, 36, is an articulate, discerning public servant whose background in environmental advocacy and agriculture will serve him well in representing the largely agricultural 4th District. We see his experience having worked inside the Beltway administering federal grants as being an asset for Sonoma County. We also are encouraged by Gore’s commitment to knowing the county’s progress in getting overall retirement costs back down to 10 percent of payroll. At last check, they were at 19 percent. “If we are going to go into collective bargaining (with SEIU next year), we need to know where we stand,” Gore said.

We agree. We also believe it’s critical to know where county supervisors stand when it comes to spending and managing taxpayer funds. We believe Gore stands with the general public rather than special interests. The Press Democrat recommends James Gore in the race for 4th District supervisor.


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By Clark Mason
The Press Democrat

Road maintenance, a topic high on the list of voter priorities in Sonoma County, also hits close to home for James Gore and Deb Fudge, the two candidates vying to represent the 4th District on the Board of Supervisors. When it comes to examples of poor roads, they don’t have to go far beyond their own driveways.

Gore mentions the potholes that plague Bailhache Avenue, the county-maintained road he lives on just outside Healdsburg.

“It’s just funky and old, and it needs to be done right,” he said of the repairs needed.

Fudge mentions the time her elderly father filled potholes on Jensen Lane, her street in Windsor, with leftover material from a walkway project.

“It’s sad when you are the mayor of the town and your 80-year-old father goes out and puts rocks in the potholes on your street,” she said.

Both candidates favor a quarter-cent sales tax to fix the county’s crumbling road system, which the Board of Supervisors recently agreed to place on the ballot in a March special election.

Both say if the measure passes, they support matching the $8.7 million in annual tax revenue it would generate for the county with money from the general fund — and perhaps even exceeding the match — to help address the estimated $268 million backlog in repairs to the county’s 1,382-mile road network.

Some who have been active on the roads issue see Gore as the most likely candidate to follow through on that pledge. Supporters include SOS Roads, the Sonoma County citizens group formed to advocate for improved road funding, which endorsed Gore earlier this month. Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3 also endorsed Gore for the same reason.

“We had several meetings with him. He will be a very strong champion of the roads issue,” said Craig Harrison, the co-founder of SOS Roads. “He sees roads as a major problem. We feel we have a really strong ally in James.”

Chris Snyder, district representative for the Operating Engineers, said the group considers Gore to be “a little more pro infrastructure” than Fudge.

But county Supervisor Shirlee Zane, who endorsed Fudge, doesn’t believe she will be any less aggressive than her rival in supporting road funding.

“I don’t see how a guy who worked for the largest agricultural department in Washington has a deeper understanding about our crumbling road system than a seasoned elected (official) who is also a bike rider, SMART board director, has been a planner and put money into roads in Windsor for many years,” Zane said.

The race for north county supervisor is seen as one that could determine the balance of the board for years to come, not only on how supervisors vote on roads, but on thorny land issues, public employee matters and environmental policies.

The two are vying to succeed Supervisor Mike McGuire, who is running for state Senate.

Analysts view the runoff as one that could determine the swing vote between liberal and centrist blocs on the Board of Supervisors. On contested issues, Zane and Susan Gorin are the most consistently liberal supervisors, while David Rabbitt and Efren Carrillo tend to be more conservative. The vast majority of board votes, however, are unanimous, and the philosophical divide is not always as great as political endorsements suggest.

Fudge, 58, a five-time mayor of Windsor, has the backing of environmental organizations and the county’s largest public employee group, Service Employees International Union.

Gore, 36, a former assistant chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Resources Conservation Service, is supported by the Sonoma County Farm Bureau and business groups. But he and Fudge also have split endorsements from Teamster groups that represent deputy district attorneys and some Santa Rosa city employees.

After years of Sonoma County consistently being singled out as having some of the worst roads in the Bay Area, the Board of Supervisors this summer agreed on a long-term plan to improve the network it oversees, contingent in part on passage of a quarter-cent, countywide sales tax increase for 20 years.

It would generate an estimated $537 million to be distributed to the county and its nine cities for the purpose of maintaining local streets and roads, filling potholes, supporting transit service, bicycle and pedestrian safety, and roadway reconstruction.

The tentative ballot measure would be a general tax, requiring a simple majority to pass, with an accompanying advisory measure stating voters’ preference that the revenue go for roads.

The Board of Supervisors agreed to commit general funds to match the county’s share of proceeds from the new tax, and the county and cities would be required to maintain their existing commitment of local funds each year for transportation purposes, or face penalties.

But Gore says he would look to invest even more in roads.

“I would definitely look to allocate increased amounts arising from both higher property tax revenues and cost-cutting efforts, especially since this plan, while focusing on 850 miles, does not address the needs of the other 500-plus miles that will also need work,” he said.

Fudge said she would love to be able to direct more money toward roads than the county’s plan, but can’t promise it is possible.

“I will be looking at the whole picture and evaluating all the county’s services and determining needs for year to year,” Fudge said. “I will be looking to (direct) extra money for roads. I can’t guarantee it. It would be irresponsible before you see the rest of the budget.”

The county road network fell into disrepair as road funding was cut or kept static over the past two decades. The recession and the state gasoline tax distribution formula also hurt counties like Sonoma with larger road networks and fewer cars than smaller, urban counties, officials say.

The county currently spends about $16 million annually on “pavement preservation,” its term for general road upkeep. County officials previously estimated the maintenance backlog at more than $920 million, but a subsequent mile-by-mile survey resulted in the lower figure of $268 million.

The long-term plan would address the backlog through repairs to major collector roads, such as Old Redwood Highway, River Road and Stony Point Road. It also would focus on 500 miles of rural roads considered important to regional travel. An additional 250 miles of local streets in unincorporated communities such as Larkfield, Penngrove and Graton would receive some repairs under the plan.

The remaining 560 miles of roads in the county network — 41 percent of the total — are in the most rural areas and would be addressed only when funding becomes available or when emergency repairs are needed, according to the plan.

Gore said it is a travesty that “we pay taxes and basic infrastructure is not stable.”

“If we’re not taking care of existing infrastructure and roads, we are failing. It needs to be made a priority. We need to make the necessary investment and do it right,” he said.

Along with Fudge, he supports not just spending on roads, but improving transit systems, too.

Harrison, of SOS Roads, said one reason the group favored Gore is that he reached out to the organization. “He asked for a tutorial, said ‘Give me all the background you can,’ ” Harrison said. The group didn’t hear from Fudge, he said, other than at an April forum where supervisorial candidates addressed the road issue prior to the primary election.

Fudge, for her part, joked that “I didn’t need a tutorial. I could have taught Gore.”

As a bicyclist, she said, “I know roads up front and personal. At one point I could have mapped out every pothole on Eastside Road, Chalk Hill and Westside Road.”

Fudge said as a Windsor councilwoman, she has joined with her colleagues to put extra funding into roads, even during the recession, above and beyond what most cities were spending. The result, she said, is that most roads in Windsor are in good condition.

Fudge said it is very important to get roads fixed “for the financial health of the county. Roads are not only for our own use, but companies that would bring jobs to Sonoma County and look at how the county is run and what shape the infrastructure is in.”

Snyder, the Operating Engineers official, said his organization is the biggest local construction union in the nation and is somewhat wary of Fudge because of endorsements she has received from groups like Sonoma County Conservation Action, which “opposed a lot of infrastructure projects,” such as quarries and gravel operations in recent years.

The two camps squared off especially over two projects approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2010 — the Dutra Materials asphalt plant outside Petaluma and the Roblar Road rock quarry west of Cotati. Conservation Action opposed both projects.

“You can’t support roads and be against mining and asphalt plants. You need gravel to make asphalt, and you need asphalt to fix the roads,” Snyder said. “I don’t think roads are her No. 1 priority at the end of the day.”

But Zane defended Fudge, saying, “You can be pro-environment and care passionately about maintaining our road system and public transportation as well.”

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214

Save Our Sonoma Roads (SOSroads) Endorses James Gore for Supervisor - Click Here to Read the Annoucement!


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By Clark Mason
The Press Democrat

James Gore continues to lead in fundraising for the 4th District Sonoma County supervisor seat, raising $244,000 to date, compared to rival Deb Fudge’s total of $187,000.

The latest campaign finance statements show that in the six-week period ending June 30, Gore raised almost $42,000, compared to Fudge’s $18,000.

The amounts are significantly less than what each candidate collected in the run-up to the June 3 primary, reflecting a respite in fundraising activity after the election.

On Thursday, both Gore and Fudge said they gave their donors a breather, but expect to put out the call for more contributions as they head toward a runoff in November.

“We wanted to give everyone a break on the fundraising routine,” Gore said.

“I’m just starting to raise money again,” Fudge said. “I gave my donors a month off before I asked them for more money again.”

Fudge, a longtime Windsor Town Council member who has served five times as mayor, is making her third bid for the North County supervisor seat after losing two previous tries in 2006 and 2010.

Gore, a former assistant chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Resources Conservation Service, is making his first run at elected office.

They seek to replace outgoing Supervisor Mike McGuire, who is running for state Senate.

In June, Fudge clinched first place and Gore came in second in the field of five candidates vying to represent a district stretching from northwest Santa Rosa to the Mendocino County line.

The endorsements have followed a typical divide, with Fudge gaining the backing of environmental and public employee unions and Gore getting the nod from the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, business groups and the construction industry.

The California Real Estate political action committee was Gore’s biggest contributor in the latest reporting period, donating $5,500.

Some of his other big contributors, who gave $2,750 apiece for the period that just ended, included Associated Builders and Contractors Northern California Chapter; Sonoma County Alliance; Susan Syar of Syar Industries; Barbara Grasseschi of Puma Springs Vineyards; and Eric Koenigshofer, an Occidental attorney and former county supervisor.

Gore also received $2,500 apiece from PG&E and Fred Biagi Jr., president of Biagi Brothers; and $2,000 from the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce.

Fudge’s biggest contributors included $2,750 from the Sonoma County Democratic Party Central Committee; $2,500 from developer Dennis Hunter, chairman of the Ygrene Energy Fund; $2,500 from Healdsburg investor Ben VanZutphen; $2,000 from the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council; and $1,000 from PG&E.

The major expenditures for the candidates involved campaign literature, mailings and consultant fees.

Fudge prides herself on her “thrifty campaign” and the “470 distinct donors” that contributed.

“A lot of my money is in small amounts from many, many people,” she said. “I have a lot of $50 donors. People give me what they could.”

Gore noted that above and beyond what Fudge has raised for her own campaign, she also benefited from a previously reported independent expenditure from the union-backed Coalition for a Better Sonoma County.

The organization raised almost $41,000 to support her with their own voter outreach and election materials. Fudge’s campaign showed an ending cash balance of $7,700 through June 30 and no debt.

Gore had $5,500 on hand on June 30 and outstanding debt of $29,530.

“We basically spent everything we had to keep the campaign going and keep things moving along,” he said.
“We are back to full court press” and “doing great on fundraising,” he added.


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Longtime Windsor Councilwoman Deb Fudge took the lead Tuesday night in a tight race for 4th District Sonoma County Supervisor, advancing in her quest to win the seat that has eluded her twice in the past eight years.

Fudge, who had nearly 37 percent of the vote, is set to face off in November with former Obama administration official James Gore, who garnered about 35 percent in early returns.

“I’m very happy with this,” Fudge said, adding that knocking on doors during the campaign gave her a sense that she would do well in the five-person race. “It looked like I was in the lead walking door-to-door.”

James Gore, candidate for 4th District county supervisor, receives a kiss from his wife, Elizabeth, at his campaign party Tuesday in Windsor.

“It’s a great start,” Gore said of the close ranking. He was buoyed by his own ground campaign, walking precincts and getting volunteers out for a last-minute push.

“It gets me fired up for what’s next,” he said of the results.

The two will go one-on-one in the November general election to determine who will replace Supervisor Mike McGuire, who is running for a state Senate seat.

Ken Churchill, the owner of small Santa Rosa winery who has been active as a pension reform advocate, took third place in the primary, claiming almost 13 percent of the vote Tuesday.

Former Healdsburg Mayor Pete Foppiano was in fourth place with slightly more than 11 percent of the vote.

Keith Rhinehart, a part-time teacher and former UPS manager, had 4 percent. The results included mail-in ballots and 74 of 74 precincts reporting.

The 4th District represents a sprawling area that extends from north Santa Rosa to the Mendocino County line, including all of Larkfield-Wikiup, Windsor, Healdsburg, Geyserville and Cloverdale.

The anticipated one-two finish of Fudge and Gore in the primary was seen by political analysts as a prelude to a contest where the swing vote between liberal and centrist blocs on the Board of Supervisors is hanging in the balance.

Fudge has the backing of environmental organizations and public employee unions. Gore is supported by the Sonoma County Farm Bureau and business groups.

Fudge, 58, a five-time mayor of Windsor who has twice run for county supervisor, touted her role in redeveloping the downtown and helping create the mixed-use Town Green area. She is also a champion of the SMART train, which is expected to begin passenger service from San Rafael to north of Santa Rosa in late 2016.

Gore, 36, a former assistant chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Resources Conservation Service, has a father and brother who are in the wine grape business in Sonoma County. He has endorsements from agricultural and business groups.

Earlier in the evening, voters emerging from polling places in the Larkfield and the Mark West area north of Santa Rosa reflected the predominate split for Fudge and Gore.

Susanne Spencer, a resident of Mark West Estates, said she voted for Fudge because “she has many years experience as a council member in Windsor. She’s done a good job with Windsor.”

“She sounds like she has a long history in Windsor and has done a really good job there,” Jen Tantarelli of Larkfield said of her reasons for voting for Fudge.

Jeff Berger also voted for Fudge. He said he was turned off by the plethora of Gore campaign signs.
Larkfield resident Matt Adams voted for Gore.

“He had some experience with the current Obama administration. I thought if he was good enough to work with the president, he could handle the 4th District,” he said.

Adams, an adviser for a local independent wealth management firm, said he got his opinion of Gore from “people I trust.”

Curtis Dupuis, a Larkfield electrical contractor who voted for Gore, said “I like the fact he was younger and has a fresh perspective. And he’s a family man; down to earth.”

Henry Bisordi, a longtime grapegrower, said he voted for Gore because “I like everything about him. I’m in agriculture. He’s strong for agriculture. He seems like a very serious young man.”

“I got to meet him when I first started out. I was impressed with him,” Bisordi said.

Cathy Campbell-Foster, a Larkfield artist who voted for Fudge said “I figured she was up to speed with what’s going on.”

“I liked the fact she was a small-business owner,” said her husband, Gary Foster, a musician who voted for Fudge.

Peter Heredia, a solar salesman who lives in the Mark West area, also liked that Fudge listed her occupation as small-business owner.“That really appealed to me. It was all I needed to hear,” he said.

Fudge is a retired PG&E senior program manager. She now makes and sells jams and jellies out of her house.
Ross McClure, a Larkfield school bus driver, voted for Gore, whom he met at a Chamber of Commerce gathering early on.

“I’m hoping he’s the real deal,” he said, adding that he’d like him to be as responsive as McGuire, who he said made sure damage on his street from garbage trucks got patched up when he called him about it.

“I’m hoping he will be proactive on the funding for roads,” McClure said of Gore.

Karen Street, a self-employed bookkeeper who lives in the Saddlebrook subdivision, said she voted for Churchill because The Press Democrat’s editorial board endorsed him.

“I was up in the air about everybody else,” she said. “My only concern is he didn’t have any previous public service, or a political background. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.”


*View Original Article
By Clark Mason
The Press Democrat

Former Obama administration official James Gore continues to lead the money race in the campaign for the 4th District Sonoma County supervisor seat.

Gore has raised a total of $202,000, with $97,000 coming in the two-month period ending May 17, according to his campaign finance statement released Thursday.

Longtime Windsor Councilwoman Deb Fudge was second in fundraising in the five-person race to replace north county Supervisor Mike McGuire, who is running for state Senate.

Fudge received $88,000 in contributions in the past two months, bringing her total raised to $169,000.

But Fudge also has benefited from additional independent expenditures by the union-backed Coalition for a Better Sonoma County.

The organization has raised almost $41,000 to support her with their own voter outreach and election materials.

Fudge has $51,000 cash on hand, which she said will pay for two more mailers before the June 3 election.
“I limit my signs, so they wouldn’t litter the landscape,” she said Thursday. “I’m someone who watches every penny and won’t waste a dime.”

Gore listed a cash balance of almost $38,000.

“It’s overwhelming and awesome,” he said of the total contributions. “There have been so many people who have come out and supported us at fundraisers in people’s homes and meet-and-greet (events). It’s going good.”

Third in fundraising was former Healdsburg Mayor Pete Foppiano, who was mailing in his campaign statement overnight. He said he raised about $45,000 in the past two months, bringing his total in the race to about $102,000.

“It’s enough to finish out June 3 and do everything we want to do,” Foppiano said.

Ken Churchill, a winery owner who advocates overhauling pensions, reported almost $52,000 in total contributions, with $40,000 coming in during the most recent two months. He reported an ending balance of $7,160.

“I think I’ve done a good job of spending it wisely,” he said, adding that his mailers have targeted people who vote in the primary, initially concentrating on those who vote by mail, then those who go to the polls.
About $25,000 has come from his own pocket. “It’s the only way to keep up with these folks,” he said of the most prolific fundraisers.

Churchill listed $1,000 in contributions from S.O.S Roads, which seeks to make road repair a higher priority in the county.

Trailing in the spending category was substitute teacher and former UPS manager Keith Rhinehart, who listed $7,589 in expenditures and $6,544 in contributions, with a lot of that from his own pocket.

He told a recent forum audience to vote for him “if you want a supervisor who will watch your money as closely as you watch your own.”

The five candidates are vying to represent a district that stretches from Santa Rosa to the Mendocino County line. It takes in northwest Santa Rosa, the Larkfield-Wikiup area, Windsor, Healdsburg, Geyserville and Cloverdale.

The endorsements and flow of money have split along familiar lines. Gore, a former assistant chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Resources Conservation Service, has won the endorsement of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, the business-oriented Sonoma County Alliance and some of the construction industry.

Fudge, a longtime Windsor council member and champion of the SMART passenger commuter train, has the backing of more liberal and staunch environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Sonoma County Conservation Action and public employee unions.

Gore listed a $2,625 contribution from Associated Builders and Contractors Northern California Chapter; $2,750 from Northern California Engineering Contractors Association; and $2,500 from Operating Engineers Local 3, District 10.

Gore also had contributions of $5,500 apiece from grape growers Laura and Rich Giron.

Fudge listed contributions of $5,500 each from William and Cynthia Gallaher, whose company proposed the Bell Village mixed-use project approved last year by the Windsor Town Council.

She also had contributions of $2,750 from Service Employees International Union Local 1021. There were $2,750 contributions each from three other unions: Sonoma Mendocino Lake Building Construction Trades; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; and Sheet Metal Workers International.

When it comes to the independent expenditure committee that supports Fudge, the largest total number of contributions funneled to the Coalition for a Better Sonoma County — $17,000 — has come from the political action arm of SEIU Local 1021.

A limited liability corporation associated with two mixed-use housing projects in Windsor that have come before the council — Bell Village and Windsor Mill — also contributed $15,000 total to the independent expenditure group.

Fudge emphasized Thursday she has nothing to do with any political action committee.
“I’m not supposed to be involved and I’m not,” she said of her relationship with the independent expenditure group. “There’s not a conflict of interest.”


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