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James Gore, a former Obama administration appointee in the Department of Agriculture, has entered the race for Mike McGuire’s seat on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. (James Gore / PD)By CLARK MASON

January 17, 2014, 6:39 PM

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James Gore, a candidate for Sonoma County supervisor, has landed an opening jab by getting three Windsor Town Council members to endorse him instead of Windsor Councilwoman Deb Fudge.

Gore, a Sonoma County native who spent three years in a senior position with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, announced this week that a majority of the council is backing him for 4th District supervisor. Some observers interpreted the endorsement as a snub for Fudge, who is also seeking the seat.

In prepared statements, Mayor Bruce Okrepkie, Vice-mayor Steve Allen and Councilwoman Robin Goble touted Gore for his enthusiasm, passion, energy and fresh perspective, saying he will listen to the needs of constituents in the North County and be a voice for Windsor on the board of supervisors.

“I’m honored and excited they have the confidence in our campaign and me,” Gore said Friday. “It bodes well for our campaign.”

Fudge reacted with a statement of her own that blamed ideological differences between her and some of her colleagues.

“I am proud of my role in building a new downtown and Town Green for Windsor. But the consensus that brought those accomplishments has been fractured by politics and ideology,” she said.

“My fight for more conservation and a greener town, including Sonoma Clean Power, isn’t supported by some of my colleagues whose vision for our town is less progressive,” she said.

Petaluma political consultant Brian Sobel gave Gore credit for scoring some early points in the race, which has five declared candidates and a June primary. If no one gets a majority of the vote in June, the two top vote-getters advance to a November run-off.

“He’s done a sensational job of picking off part of a town council,” Sobel said of Gore, 35, who is making his first run at elected office after seven years total in Washington, D.C. “What it says about him is: He is legitimate. He signs up people who serve with the competition,” he said.

On balance, Sobel said candidates prefer to have the endorsement of colleagues and peers “because in theory, they watch you closer than anyone else, know about the positions you take, and how you arrive at positions.”

But the endorsements may not mean as much, Sobel said if voters believe Fudge, 57, is more aligned with their thinking, or standing up for them.

“No doubt it’s a gut punch,” Sobel said. “In the bigger picture it’s something she can recover from quickly and counter with endorsements she’s got.”

That’s exactly what Fudge did, noting she has been endorsed by Sonoma County supervisors Shirlee Zane and Susan Gorin, along with state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa; former Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma; and former Assemblywoman Patty Berg, D-Eureka.

“I’m sure my endorsements are unmatched in this race,” she said.

Okrepkie is a relative newcomer to the Windsor Council, having served just over a year, but he said he likes Gore’s “pro business” stance and involvement with agriculture.

“It’s not an assault against Debora,” he said.

But it isn’t the first time that Windsor council veterans Allen and Goble have endorsed an opponent of Fudge’s, who is making her third bid to be elected county supervisor.

Both backed Supervisor Mike McGuire when Fudge ran against him four years ago. Mcguire has decided not to seek re-election and is instead running for the state Senate seek being vacated by Evans.

Also in the supervisorial race are Healdsburg Councilman Tom Chambers, former Healdsburg councilman Pete Foppiano, and Keith Rhinehart, a former UPS supervisor and part-time teacher.

Gore, whose family is in the wine industry, returned to the area this year after leaving a senior post in the Obama administration, as assistant chief in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Allen said he likes Gore for a number of reasons, including that he is “closer to the moderate outlook on the issues.”

“I didn’t feel that he had that activist bent in politics. He had more of a nuts and bolts (approach) — how you’re going to make it work,” Allen said.

“He doesn’t come with a narrow personal agenda,” Goble said, asserting that Fudge has “lmarginalized peope.”

Allen and Goble have sided against Fudge on a number of significant issues. For example Fudge supported the creation of Sonoma Clean Power, the start-up county public agency that will compete with PG&E.

Allen and Goble did not, and also were at odds with Fudge on a pay-as-you go water saving program.

Fudge supported resolutions on gun control and another on a proposed constitutional amendment to limit political spending by corporations. Allen and Goble either opposed or declined to vote on the matters, saying the issues were not local, nor deserving of the Town Council’s time.



December 4, 2013, 3:00 AM

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James Gore, a Sonoma County native whose family is in the wine industry and who returned to the area this year after leaving a senior post in the Obama administration, is jumping into the open race for the north county supervisor’s seat.

Though well-versed in government from his seven years in Washington, D.C., including three years working in the Department of Agriculture under President Obama, Gore, 35, is making his first bid for public office. He announced his candidacy to succeed Mike McGuire for the $134,000 county supervisor’s job Wednesday.

James Gore, a former Obama administration appointee in the Department of Agriculture, has entered the race for Mike McGuire’s seat on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. (James Gore / PD)Gore faces the extra hurdle of running as a relative unknown. But he called himself “a proud public servant” and said he sees “fresh perspective” as an advantage in the race. He intends to build name recognition and earn support through a “tireless” door-to-door campaign, he said.

“I see it as being on the ground, full-court press, meeting every resident I can in the district, earning every inch,” he said. “That’s the only way I’ve approached anything in life and that’s the way I’m going to approach this.”

Gore now lives outside Healdsburg with his wife Elizabeth and their two-year-old daughter. He was raised in Cloverdale and Santa Rosa and graduated in 1996 from Montgomery High School. He has an undergraduate degree in agriculture from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and a masters in political management from George Washington University.

His opponents in the contest for the open 4th District seat so far include two political veterans, foremost among them longtime Windsor Councilwoman Deb Fudge, who last month announced her third attempt to claim the north county seat.

The other two declared candidates are former Healdsburg Mayor Pete Foppiano, who lost a previous bid for supervisor in 1994, and Keith Rhinehart, a former UPS supervisor and part-time teacher.

Gore, who returned from Washington after leaving the federal job in May, was widely reported to be making the rounds among political insiders and others after McGuire announced in mid-October that he would run instead for the open state Senate seat representing the North Coast.

Gore said he doesn’t see the supervisor’s seat as a launching pad to higher office. “I came back to be in Sonoma County, not to be in D.C. and not to be in Sacramento,” he said.

His avowed “passion” for environmental conservation and roots in agriculture — his father was a founding partner in Vyborny Vineyard Management and his family owns a 30-acre vineyard outside of Cloverdale — could shake up the county’s traditional political fault lines. Fudge also claims strong environmental credentials. The growing field also could splinter support and funding from business and labor groups.

Candidates will need to have a solid base to survive the June primary and crossover appeal to win the seat outright, said David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist.

“You can’t win that race just being the environmental or pro-business candidate,” he said.

After college, Gore followed in his father’s steps by joining the Peace Corps. He served in a remote region of southern Bolivia.

He later worked for a Washington-based consulting and lobbying firm, representing the California wine industry on international affairs and trade.

He joined the Obama administration in mid-2010 and served most recently as assistant chief in the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, which specializes in environmental protection involving private landowners.

Gore oversaw some of those efforts as well as an initiative to combat rural poverty. He also helped funnel federal money to aid West Coast salmon recovery, including about $2 million to North Coast streams, the Russian River among them.

He said his experience in Washington — perhaps a black mark for some — would help in steering federal and state assistance to Sonoma County.

“I’ve had a good opportunity to run in a lot of different places and do a lot of different work,” he said. “As much as I know my way around, I know how to get it done.”

The north county district stretches from northwest Santa Rosa to the Mendocino County line, taking in the unincorporated Larkfield/Wikiup area, Geyserville and the cities of Windsor, Healdsburg and Cloverdale.
Gore said his campaign would emphasize health services, education, environmental protection and other core government programs.

“You’re talking about roads. You’re talking about water for people. You’re talking about law enforcement. Those issues are going to be prime time in my mind because it’s the nuts and bolts of what a county supervisor does.”

He shied away from stating his stance on a number of hot-button county proposals, including fluoridation of drinking water, union rules and benefits for large county construction projects and protective setbacks to limit development and farming along more than 3,200 miles of streams.

The latter two issues have become litmus tests for influential labor, environmental and farming groups. Gore is seeking their endorsement but said that he remains undecided on the issues at this point.

“To me, it’s not responsible to take a position at the beginning of a campaign before I talk with the residents to see what they want,” he said. “That’s what every candidate should do, and that’s the way I’ll approach it.”


James Gore, a former Obama administration appointee in the Department of Agriculture, has entered the race for Mike McGuire’s seat on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. (James Gore / PD)Healdsburg, CA – James Gore announced today, he is running for the office of 4th District Sonoma County Supervisor. A leader in conservation, agriculture, and community prosperity, Mr. Gore is a Sonoma County native who was born in Healdsburg and raised in the 4th District.

Most recently, Gore worked as a presidential appointee as the Assistant Chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). During this service as a presidential appointee, he led nationwide conservation investments at the intersection of agriculture, business, and the environment.

Gore helped create the NRCS Pacific Salmon Habitat Improvement Partnership, which yielded $12 million dollars in federal funding to West Coast watersheds, including the Russian River. Mr. Gore collaborated with the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors as well as local environmental and agricultural stakeholder groups to leverage federal resources to support Sonoma County and region-wide initiatives.

Currently, Gore serves as the Co-Leader for the Working Landscapes team of the California Economic Summit. He is also leading initiatives in Northern California on conservation, ending food waste, and building a stronger intersection between agriculture and the environment.

Previously, Mr. Gore served in the United States Peace Corps as an agricultural and natural resources volunteer in Bolivia, South America. Upon his return from the Peace Corps, Mr. Gore worked in the private sector for a management consulting firm, where he represented California agriculture on international affairs and trade.

Upon announcing his candidacy, Gore said, “I was blessed to be born and raised here in northern Sonoma County, in a place we all know as one of the most beautiful and civic minded communities anywhere, and now I’m proud to be raising my own family here. I believe in putting people first, and will look to the residents of Cloverdale, Geyserville, Healdsburg, Windsor, Santa Rosa and our unincorporated areas to guide my campaign in the coming months. This will be a campaign built upon collaboration and identifying shared solutions to meet the challenges facing the district.”

“If you want to see good things done in your community, you need to get involved and serve. I am running to be the candidate that will best represent the 4th District.”

“I have spent the past several years giving back to my community at a local, national and international level,” Gore said. “My work with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the California Economic Summit has given me a broad perspective on many important issues related to our people, our environment, and our community prosperity, but my real passion lies here at home continuing to serve residents in our own community,” Gore added.

Mr. 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 is fluent in Spanish and Italian. James Gore lives in Healdsburg where he and his wife Elizabeth are raising their two-year-old daughter, Opal.


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