WatchSonoma Watch

Carlstrom takes early lead in money race for Santa Rosa council

Erin Carlstrom


Attorney Erin Carlstrom has taken an early fundraising lead in her bid for one of the four Santa Rosa City Council seats on the ballot in November, but the field is far from settled.

Carlstrom raised $16,829 between July 1 and the end of 2011, more than twice as much as her closest competitor, neighborhood activist Julie Combs. In all, Carlstrom, a member of the city’s Measure O Oversight Committee, has reported raising $21,064 and has $11,043 in cash on hand.

Julie Combs

Carlstrom said her fundraising demonstrates she enjoys strong community support and has the means to run an effective campaign.

Julie Combs, a founder of Bennett Valley neighborhood group “95405.org” and member of the city’s Community Advisory Board, raised $7,870 in the final six months of 2011.

But due largely to $9,000 she previously loaned her campaign, Combs’ campaign has had access to nearly as much cash as Carlstrom, with total contributions of $20,084. And because she’s spent less, Combs had slightly more cash on hand at year’s end, $11,489.

Combs said the broad base of support she is getting shows she’s running a grass-roots campaign.

This year’s council race has the potential to shift the balance of power on the ideologically divided council, where members supported by business and development interests hold a slim 4-3 advantage over those more closely aligned labor and environmental groups.

The local filing deadline to become an official candidate isn’t until August, and how many incumbents will seek re-election isn’t clear.

Mayor Ernesto Olivares presumably will run again. Vice Mayor John Sawyer, the longest serving member of the council, is running for the 1st District seat on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. If he loses in the June primary, he still would have time to defend his council seat.

Councilman Gary Wysocky said he’ll make a decision whether to run for council or the Board of Supervisors after discussing it with his family. And Councilwoman Marsha Vas Dupre has said she will not run again.

Carlstrom, 28, and Combs, 56, both relative newcomers to the city’s political scene, got early starts to their fundraising in an effort to build name recognition.

But others are also planning to get campaigns into gear.

Caroline Baneulos, a member of the Planning Commission and volunteer coordinator at the Living Room, a center for homeless women, filed papers last year and says her campaign will kick off soon.

Shaan Vandenburg, an asphalt plant operator at Syar Industries in Santa Rosa, announced his intention to run earlier this month.

And Hans Dippel, who works at a winery supply company in Cotati and ran for council in 2008, hasn’t filed paperwork yet but says he plans to do so soon.

The other big unknown is who will run with the help of political consultant Herb Williams, who helped guide the campaigns of all four members of the current council majority.

Williams declined to discuss how many candidates he might manage, and said any announcements will be made “at the appropriate time.” He said he isn’t worried about other candidates getting a head-start on fundraising.

“Good for them,” he said.

8 Responses to “Carlstrom takes early lead in money race for Santa Rosa council”

  1. The Slate says:

    Erin Carlstrom, Julie Combs, Caroline Banuelos and Gary Wysocky all appeared and were introduced at last month’s Demo Club meeting as a “slate” that were “pre approved” according to the moderator. Liz Basile didn’t say who “pre approved” the candidates or who recruited them.

    Wysocky stated during the meeting that he had not decided whether to run or not at the meeting even though he appeared there as part of the slate of “pre approved” candidates. What that means is Wysocky just wants to wait until after tax season before launching into his re election campaign and wants surprise people. Wysocky brought corruption to the city government with his appointment of Michael Allen to the Planning Commission in 2009. He appointed the guy who admitted taking money in exchange for his vote and was fined for this most serious form of influence peddling by the FPPC two years later. Wysocky is accountable for that and the voters should show him the door so he can do no more damage with his crony appointments.

    Julie Combs is one of the leaders of the “PDA” Progressive Democrats of America a radical group formed by Norman Solomon. The PDA’s goal is to change the Democratic Party and make it more like the Green Party. She was appointed to the local Democratic Party Central Committee which just announced it was endorsing Allen for reelection. What will that mean at the City level? Maybe we’ll have more corruption and become more like Sebastopol where the Greens briefly held sway.

    Erin Carlstrom has lived here less than 4 or 5 years. She landed here right after law school and instead of building up a legal practice or joining an established one, she just wastes her time as a regular here on Watch Sonoma County, going to Young Democrats meetings, and campaigning for Michael Allen. Her boyfriend/now husband Nick Caston helped manage Michael Allen’s Assembly race during which he denied he did anything “wrong” even though he’d violated both state and federal laws prohibiting public officials from exchanging decisions for money. Carlstrom talked former City Councilwoman Veronica Jacobi into giving her a brief appointment on the Planning Commission after her boyfriend stepped down. Has there ever been a more highly partisan aggressive candidate for a non-partisan city council race?

    Who created this questionable slate? The local machine. Don’t be surprised if the real financial backing disclosed late in the process comes from the North Bay Labor Council and they’ll all get a few bucks from the local Democratic Central Committee…afterall, they are “pre approved.”

    Here’s the best advice: vote for non partisan independants. Don’t vote for slates. Our city council is not for sale.

  2. Get your story straight says:

    Carlstrom an attorney, well, what kind of attorney? And what cases has she worked on? As far as I know she hasn’t done a thing since getting out of law school. Who is she associated with? She’s only 28 years old for crying out loud. Carlstrom and Combs are both progressives that are pushing the socialist nonsense about livable neighborhoods which is crap because they are in collusion with the City in gathering information on people and supplying it to the city. Check out Asset-Based Community Development, and their plan to have us doing Mandatory Volunteering.

    Santa Rosa sponsors this thing called Neighborhood Summit, a mock UN style program where the City is involved in all neighborhood associations making sure there aren’t any independant groups. These neighborhood groups actually spy on their neighbors and report to the city. The progressives around here are all followers of the United Nations “Smartgrowth” plan that intends to get us into those densely populated urban environments. Most people in Sonoma County moved up here to get away from that sort of thing.

    We don’t need to elect any more people who feel the need to adopt United Nations socialist programs instead of being able to make their own decisions on behalf of the public. The progressives “need” international groups like ICLEI to tell them what to do. It’s time for an overhaul of our political affiliations with outside groups like the UN who don’t have the best interests of Americans at heart. Let’s elect people that can think for themselves and stick to the United States Constitution for a change. Next.

  3. The Oracle says:

    Follow the money, indeed. The candidates just filed. Look for yourselves! We at Delphi know the truth. The progressives are not united. Lisa Maldonaldo is behind candidate, Caroline, who is so disorganized she doesn’t have a campaign yet. Erin is getting support from local business, and remains dustrusted by the Neighborhood groups, labor, and environmental groups. Julie is backed by neighborhood groups and desperately try to win over labor and environmental groups. And it doesn’t matter because these groups have very little money. It’s political keystone cops. Before I retired and moved here I saw organized progressives; and Santa Rosa doesn’t have any Herb Williams needs to fear. He’s got the real money and organization here at Delphi. Thankfully! Hugs and kisses Herb!

  4. John Galt says:


    Spin it however you want, but all you have to do is follow the money. The reality is that “progressive” candidates are largely funded by “special interests”- primarily labor and environmental groups. They are beholden to those who put them in power, just as those who are in the pro-business camp are beholden to their major donors.

    For you to deny the link and the power that those interest groups have is the true fantasy.

    The fact of the matter is that local politics is dominated by several powerful interest/advocacy groups- agriculture, labor unions, business/development interests, and environmentalists. Those groups usually divide along pretty predictable lines and line up behind the candidate that has promised their support.

    I hate to be jaded, but it’s the reality of Sonoma County politics. Those with money and influence back the candidate that best represents their interests, which may or may not line up with the public interest.

  5. The Oracle says:

    I appreciate the reporter’s biased portrayal of progressive candidates as labor and environmental candidates. It makes it easy for me to pretend they are in the pocket of some fictional powerful special interest. I prefer that fantasy over thinking about the truth, that progressives are about promoting livable neighborhoods, and being sensitive to environmental issues and labor issues and local business issues helps do that. Our shared fantasy makes it easy for me to ignore the truth, that Santa Rosa’s City Council majority favors special interests such as the public safety associations and developers over their own city’s well-being. Thank you for the biased reporting.

  6. StarsUponThars says:

    Pete: correct me if I’m wrong, but pretty sure being an attorney (as Carlstrom is) qualifies as neither social work nor “community worker”.

  7. Pete Davis says:

    So far those declared and those thinking about running represent the same old leftist, public union supported regulars.

    These aren’t the people we can expect to solve the budget and pension crisis facing Santa Rosa.

    Why can’t we get some candidates with some honest credentials with a background in something other than social work or acting as a community worker?

    These are not the types I would hire to run my business let alone a multi-million dollar municipal budget.

    Its time for someone with a public interest, not a person interest, to step up and make the chances in Santa Rosa that are needed to get the budget and the city back on track.

  8. Really? says:

    A $9,000 loan…seems like a lot of personal money for a grass-roots candidate in a city council race. Wouldn’t grass-roots mean lots of support from the community?