By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Independent political committees spending tens of thousands of dollars will play a key role in Rohnert Park’s City Council elections, the latest campaign finance reports make clear.
While five candidates have taken in a combined $39,000 and spent a combined $44,000, two opposing committees alone have already spent a combined $26,500 on campaign signs and mail pieces, the reports show.
A third, the influential Rohnert Park Peace Officers Association, or POA, has in previous elections spent as much as $35,000. It filed no finance statements for the latest reporting period, from July 1 to Sept. 30.
On Tuesday, POA announced endorsements of two candidates — Planning Commission chairman John Borba and former City Manager Carl Leivo — and said it had just begun campaign efforts.
Finance statements and fliers paid for by the other two committees suggest that much of the race may revolve around two of the six council candidates, Mayor Pam Stafford and former City Manager Leivo.
Stafford’s is one of two seats up for grabs.
One committee, funded entirely by real estate development firm Codding Enterprises, is called Protect Rohnert Park, Opposing Carl Leivo and John Borba and supporting Pam Stafford and Amy Ahanotu for City Council 2010.
Its first election flier arrived in mailboxes Wednesday, headlined, “Be careful, there is more to Carl Leivo than meets the eye … and it’s dangerous for Rohnert Park.”
Codding Enterprises contributed $10,000 to the committee, which has spent $9,239 so far, the statements show.
The second committee, funded by a handful of Rohnert Park residents, is called Citizens for Change, Oppose Reelection of Pam Stafford for City Council.
Finance statements show the committee has spent $17,122 since July. The bulk of its contributions are from two residents, James Henley and Bruce Hotaling, who contributed $6,000 and $5,900 respectively.
The committee has sent out two fliers that say, “Don’t vote for Mayor Pam Stafford,” and charge her with a battery of fiscally irresponsible actions.
The Protect Rohnert Park committee is headed by veteran political consultant Herb Williams. When asked about Codding Enterprises’ interest in the election, he said, “Sonoma Mountain Village is committed to Rohnert Park, and there’s concern with the city’s financial viability in the future.”
Codding Enterprises is developing Sonoma Mountain Village, a $1 billion, mixed use development on the city’s south edge. A divided City Council approved the project in August. Stafford was one of three votes in favor of it.
Asked whether defeating Leivo would be the focus of the committee’s campaign, Williams said, “We’re for two people and against two people. The best way to do that is one person at a time.”
The forces behind the Citizens for Change committee are less clear. Rohnert Park resident Mary Langton filed the committee’s statement of organization, and her fiance, Bruce Hotaling, is one of its two major donors.
But Hotaling on Wednesday said he wouldn’t comment on who organized the committee or its goals.
Leivo, asked why he thought had been targeted by the Protect Rohnert Park committee, said it was because he met with Codding Enterprises officials about Sonoma Mountain Village, and “I did not support their projects 100 percent.”
Borba, who in the Protect Rohnert Park committee’s flier is referred to only once as Leivo’s “running mate,” said “it’s unfair” that he is being grouped with Leivo.
“This is all just garbage. I’m John Borba, I’m not Carl Leivo,” he said. Borba has said he supports Sonoma Mountain Village.