Former Santa Rosa Councilwoman Veronica Jacobi plans to challenge Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo for his west county seat in June’s election.
Jacobi, 53, a mechanical engineer and energy management consultant, served one, four-year term on the City Council before being ousted in the 2010 election when a slate of pro-business candidates shifted the council majority.
She ran unsuccessfully in 2004 and 2008 for the Board of Supervisors 3rd District seat, which includes central Santa Rosa and much of Rohnert Park.
Several weeks ago, she moved into a Roseland-area home she bought in 2010, which put her into Carrillo’s 5th Supervisorial District, which takes in most of the west county, including west Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, the Russian River corridor and the coast from Bodega Bay to Mendocino County.
She said her move was motivated by her interest in challenging Carrillo, who was elected in 2008. Jacobi becomes Carrillo’s only challenger so far in the contest, which has a March 9 filing deadline.
A staunch supporter of environmental causes, Jacobi said she intends to take aim at Carrillo’s voting record on land-use issues.
Carrillo, 30, has backed several controversial projects, including a large Russian River gravel mine outside of Geyserville and the Dutra Materials asphalt plant south of Petaluma.
Both projects have been tied up in lawsuits, part of a wave of legal challenges prompted by county decisions two years ago that led some advocates and constituents to question Carrillo’s environmental values.
“We need to protect the beauty that we have here and the quality of life we have here,” Jacobi said Friday. “I think the things he is pursuing, some of them will hurt us in the long term.”
Carrillo said he welcomed the competition and the opportunity to defend his record, including votes and work on environmental issues. He has framed his most controversial land-use decisions as votes in favor of economic development and job creation.
“We have a vast diversity of needs in the 5th District, including environmental protection and economic development,” he said. “I believe I balance those well.”
In the other county races this year, the contest for retiring Supervisor Valerie Brown’s 1st District seat has produced a crowded field of six candidates. The district includes eastern Santa Rosa and the Sonoma Valley
Supervisor Shirlee Zane faces no challengers in her bid for re-election in the 3rd District.
In campaign finance reports this month, Carrillo showed $101,748 in the bank, a formidable amount in any county race. Jacobi acknowledged she long has struggled in fundraising, relying largely on personal donations to finance past campaigns.
Carrillo’s near-constant presence at community events and ties to a variety of causes give him another edge in the race, said Mike Reilly, his predecessor in the 5th District office.
“Efren has worked the district really hard in the last three years,” Reilly said. “If Veronica decides to take him on, it’s going to be a long shot.”
Reilly, a longtime member of the state Coastal Commission and ally of environmental groups, retired at the end of 2008 after 12 years on the county board.
The same year, Carrillo, a government relations manager for Redwood Credit Union, claimed the seat in a close victory over Rue Furch, a veteran county planning commissioner.
The outcome was seen as a loss by many environmental advocates. Stretching back to the 1980s, the west county seat has been held by powerful environmental advocates, including Reilly, Eric Koenigshofer and Ernie Carpenter.
Carrillo’s candidacy drew on support from business interests, developers and construction companies.
In office, however, Carrillo has sought to reinforce his commitment to a broader slate of issues, including environmental causes. He cited his support for a large county purchase of open space on the Jenner Headlands, his backing of a proposed bid to form a county power agency — a move that could boost green energy development — and his leadership on a fisheries restoration grant program.
“The record speaks for itself,” he said. “I believe I’m just as strong of an environmental advocate as most folks in this county.”
Still, Carrillo’s vote for the Dutra asphalt plant continues to rankle some environmental leaders.
They also are concerned about his possible support for Preservation Ranch, the forest-to-vineyard conversion project proposed on 20,000 acres outside of Annapolis. Carrillo has said he will not weigh in on the project until it comes before the board, a step expected to come after the June election.
The uncertainty has led some to push quietly for his ouster.
Jacobi said she was approached by several individuals about running for the seat this year. She declined to say who she had talked with but noted she was seeking the endorsement of Sonoma County Conservation Action, the largest local environmental group, and the local chapter of the Sierra Club.
The groups interviewed Jacobi for an endorsement last week.
Dennis Rosatti, Conservation Action’s executive director, said the groups were set to discuss their decision this week.
He said he had yet to hear back from Carrillo about a questionnaire. He called the supervisor’s leadership “a mixed bag.”
Jacobi said her focus as a supervisor would be on small business development, increased investment in renewable energy and a more cautious approach to projects and practices involving resource extraction.
She said she opposes Preservation Ranch as currently proposed.
“We absolutely need to get the economy more resilient,” she said. “But it needs to be balanced. When you do resource extraction there are environmental consequences.”
She brushed off speculation about her long odds in the race.
“I’m in it to win,” she said. “I know it’s a difficult race. But difficulty doesn’t stop me.”
You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or firstname.lastname@example.org.