By BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Valerie Brown, the retiring Sonoma County Board of Supervisors veteran, has thrown her support behind Mark Bramfitt in the race to claim her 1st District supervisorial seat.
The 1st District takes in Sonoma Valley, including the city of Sonoma, and parts of eastern Santa Rosa. The race has attracted five candidates, two of whom are Santa Rosa city councilmembers.
Brown said Bramfitt, an energy consultant and Valley of the Moon Water District board member, has the best combination of leadership and public policy experience in the Sonoma Valley among the five candidates.
The endorsement was announced in a written statement released by Bramfitt’s campaign on Sunday.
“He’s smart and capable and he knows the county well and knows the 1st District well,” Brown said Monday morning in a brief phone interview.
Brown cited Bramfitt’s years of service on the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission, his role as chairman of the Sonoma Valley Groundwater Basin Advisory Panel and service on the Valley of the Moon water board.
She said the posts gave him valuable perspective on business, environmental and public utility issues.
“I’m thrilled that Mark is in the race and that I can support him,” Brown said in the interview.
The endorsement adds further fuel to the district’s geopolitical divide, expected to be a major factor in the race this year.
The 1st District seat has long been held by a Sonoma Valley resident. But growth and redistricting has shifted a majority of the population base to eastern and northeastern Santa Rosa and its outskirts, including Oakmont, Bennett and Rincon valleys and the Fountaingrove area.
Three candidates in the field hail from those areas, including two likely frontrunners, Santa Rosa councilmembers Susan Gorin and John Sawyer. Both bring years of political experience, name recognition, fundraising capability and a list of high-profile endorsements to the race.
Brown, who lives in the unincorporated area just south of Kenwood, said her endorsement of Bramfitt was partly a recognition of that stiff competition and the risk that the 1st District seat could shift to a Santa Rosa-based supervisor.
Already, two members of the Board of Supervisors — Chairwoman Shirlee Zane and Efren Carrillo — live in Santa Rosa, Brown said. Residents of eastern Santa Rosa also have City Hall to turn to for their concerns, she said.
“To take care of many of their needs, most Sonoma Valley residents rely primarily on the Board of Supervisors and that’s why I am supporting Sonoma Valley resident Mark Bramfitt,” Brown said in the written statement.
The only current multi-term supervisor, Brown, 66, is a former Sonoma mayor and state assemblywoman. She was appointed to the Board of Supervisors in August 2002 by Gov. Gray Davis. She filled the seat vacated by 1st District Supervisor Mike Cale, who stepped down for health reasons. She was elected the following November to fill the remainder of the term and won re-election in 2004 and 2008. She announced in August that she would not run again.
Bramfitt welcomed her endorsement.
“I am humbled and honored to have the support from Supervisor Valerie Brown,” he said in the statement.
The other candidates in the race are Gina Cuclis, a Boyes Hot Springs communications consultant who serves on the county’s Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health Advisory Board and Keith Rhinehart, a former United Parcel Service supervisor and substitute teacher who lives just north of Santa Rosa off Riebli Road.
The first candidates’ forum in the race will be held on Wednesday, from noon to 2 p.m., at the Santa Rosa Central Library. It will focus on issues pertaining to children and families, including health care and welfare. It is hosted by the Santa Rosa-based California Parenting Institute.