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March 18, 2014

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Candidates in the crowded race to replace 4th District Sonoma County Supervisor Mike McGuire have scored a number of big endorsements in recent days as the campaign for the June 3 primary heats up.

On Tuesday, Windsor City Councilwoman Deb Fudge earned the backing of Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro, D-Arcata, and Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas. That is on top of support from a host of current and former elected officials and recent endorsements by the county Democratic Party, environmental groups including the Sierra Club, and unions, including SEIU Local 1021, the county’s largest public employee union.

Former Obama administration official James Gore, widely seen as Fudge’s chief rival, took the sought-after endorsement of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau. That adds to the support he’s received from several elected officials, including three of Fudge’s colleagues on the Windsor Town Council, and organizations including the Sonoma County Alliance, the North Bay Association of Realtors and the North Coast Builders Exchange.

Fudge and Gore are two of five candidates seeking the north county supervisor’s post, left open because McGuire is seeing a state Senate seat being vacated by Santa Rosa Democrat Noreen Evans. McGuire has not endorsed any of the candidates and has not said whether he intends to do so.

Both Fudge and Gore say the endorsements are symbols of their credibility and electability.

“When you look at the breadth and depth of my endorsements,” Fudge said, “it reflects the work I have been doing in the county for 20 years.”

Gore said, “If people look at the endorsements I have — be they from individuals, from elected officials, or from groups — they see a wide base of support. And that’s what’s important about endorsements.”

Former Healdsburg Mayor Pete Foppiano likewise said he is trying to paint a picture of himself with his endorsements. While he lacks the lengthy list of establishment groups supporting Fudge and Gore, he has the backing of a number of former elected and appointed officials who he worked with on the City Council, as well as a longer list of business owners.

Foppiano said he is trying to highlight his tenure on the council, from 1984 to 1996, and his subsequent experience running his own business. The endorsements are meant to reflect that he will represent small businesses.

“Nobody really speaks for them,” he said.

The other two candidates in the race have lined up few endorsements. Keith Rhinehart, a former UPS supervisor who is currently a substitute teacher, said he deliberately made little effort to seek endorsements, preferring to push his business-friendly message in one-on-one encounters with voters. He said he is trying to run a “low budget” campaign based on door-to-door canvassing and social media.

Winemaker and pension activist Ken Churchill only entered the race last week, months after his rivals, and has yet to develop a roster of endorsements.
But do endorsement matter? Candidates say yes, but they admit that they are not usually decisive.

“Endorsements do show momentum,” Gore said, and endorsements by groups can bring with them financial contributions and support from members.

Former Supervisor Ernie Carpenter, who is supporting Fudge, said an absence of endorsements tends to speak more loudly than their presence. “If you don’t have them, you look like you’re not viable,” he said.

Indeed, it was a slowing trickle of endorsements that helped drive Healdsburg City Council member Tom Chambers from the race earlier this year.

“It’s a ticket to money,” Chambers said of a candidate’s endorsement list, both directly through the groups and individuals who add their names and indirectly as a signal to other funders that you have some energy and organization.

Former Supervisor Eric Koenigshofer, who is supporting Gore, however, downplayed the significance of endorsements in local elections. Unlike state or national elections, he said, supervisor races are conducted at a small enough scale that voters are more likely to meet the candidates in person and form their own judgments.

That kind interaction is what Rhinehart and Churchill said they are counting on to overcome other candidates’ financial and organizational advantages, propelling them through the June 3 primary. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent, the top two vote-getters will face off on the November ballot.

“I’ll accept all the help I can get,” Churchill said, “but seeking endorsements I don’t think is part of our strategy to victory.”


Healdsburg, CA – The Sonoma County Farm Bureau announced today their endorsement of James Gore for Fourth District Sonoma County Supervisor.

Gore, a Healdsburg native, has deep roots in the agricultural community. His father founded a successful vineyard management company in the Fourth District and until last year, Gore served as the Assistant Chief in the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

ring this service, he led nationwide conservation efforts at the intersection of agriculture, business, and the environment. In an effort to enhance both a vibrant economy and protect our nation’s natural resources, James advocated for and led efforts to expand services in persistent poverty areas with underserved communities, leading to the creation and deployment of USDA’s persistent poverty initiative, StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity.

Gore also helped lead efforts on climate change mitigation and the protection of Pacific salmon habitats. He created and deployed the NRCS Pacific Salmon Habitat Improvement Partnership, which yielded $12 million dollars in federal funding to West Coast watersheds, including the Russian River watershed. He was also a participant on the White House Rural Council and the Know Your Farmer, Know your Food Taskforce.

“James Gore has shown an accurate grasp of the reality of the agricultural issues in the county,” said Tito Sasaki, president of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau. “We are confident that, on the Board of Supervisors, he will be the voice of reason and compassion, supporting us and the family farmers and ranchers to keep our agriculture viable, sustainable, and environmentally positive, thus enabling us to continue contributing to the future of Sonoma County,” Sasaki added.

Gore expressed gratitude upon learning of the endorsement. “The Sonoma County Farm Bureau represents farming and ranching families from across our community committed to delivering sustainably-grown products to the kitchen table,” Gore said. “I’ve had a strong working relationship with the agricultural community and look forward to continue collaborating with local farmers and ranchers once elected to the County Board,” Gore added.

“I had the great fortune of growing up surrounded by the bounty of Sonoma County Agriculture.  My father was a beekeeper, gardener, and vineyard manager who taught us to love and care for the land.  I have pursued that same passion of land production and sustainability throughout my life.  As an Agriculture and Natural Resources Volunteer in the Peace Corps in Bolivia, 90% of the rural families I lived and worked with were agriculturalists, and we ran projects to improve production, minimize loss, and conserve soil and water.  As the Assistant Chief of NRCS, I had the pleasure of working nationwide and here locally to partner with landowners to protect and sustain our water, soil, and air through proactive conservation efforts.  I couldn’t be more excited about receiving the endorsement of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau.  The 4th District of Sonoma County – running from Cloverdale to Northern Santa Rosa – has an Agriculture and Resource backbone, and I look forward to supporting that smart, sustainable, and productive culture as Supervisor.”

Gore holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Agribusiness from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and a Master’s Degree from George Washington University. He lives in Healdsburg where he and his wife Elizabeth are raising their two-year-old daughter, Opal.



February 11, 2014

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Less than two months after declaring his candidacy for Sonoma County supervisor, Healdsburg City Councilman Tom Chambers has bowed out of the race.

Chambers on Tuesday said he was unable to gain enough momentum after a late start in the campaign for the North County seat and is throwing his support to James Gore.

“He and I were going after the same folks — a little more moderate to conservative, a little more free market,” Chambers said. “I needed a little more horsepower to catch up.”

Chambers’ departure leaves four candidates vying for the $134,000-a-year job in the June primary — longtime Windsor Councilwoman Deb Fudge; Gore, a former assistant chief in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service; former Healdsburg Councilman Pete Foppiano; and Keith Rhinehart, a former UPS supervisor and part-time teacher.

They are running for the seat currently occupied by 4th District Supervisor Mike McGuire, who is not seeking re-election, but instead is running for the state Senate seat being vacated by Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa.

The sprawling 4th Supervisorial District extends to the Mendocino County line and includes parts of north Santa Rosa, along with all of Wikiup-Larkfield, Windsor, Healdsburg and Cloverdale.

Political analysts say it is unlikely any of the supervisorial candidates will get a majority of the vote in June, setting up a run-off between the two top vote getters in November.

Even without Chambers’ endorsement, Gore would have benefitted with the Healdsburg councilman’s departure, they said. “People who would support Chambers will support Gore,” said Petaluma political consultant Brian Sobel.

“Nominally, Chambers dropping out helps boost Gore in the short-term,“ said David McCuan, a Sonoma State political scientist who closely follows supervisorial elections.
They said the two candidates both appealed to business and agricultural interests.

Fudge, who has run twice before for supervisor, is endorsed by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups. She is expected to do well in the primary with the backing of progressive groups and voters.

“Her name recognition is so good,” McCuan said, but said “her negatives are baked in. She has to push past those and draw some people beyond the left in, to the center or middle.”

Chambers announced his candidacy in mid-December, about a month after the other candidates. The third-term councilman touted his background in government and his management experience in the manufacturing and high-tech sectors as preparing him for the job of supervisor.

Although he raised $32,000, he said he was at a disadvantage going forward trying to raise the $150,000 to $200,000 he was told he would need to mount a successful campaign.

“I was not ready to throw a Hail Mary pass,” Chambers said.

He described Gore as “an aggressive campaigner who’s done a nice job of getting out in front.”

Gore said Tuesday that he welcomes Chambers endorsement, describing him as “a widely respected leader, not only in Healdsburg but the North County.”Chambers said he will give the money he raised back to his contributors.


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