By BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Keith Rhinehart, the dark horse contender among six candidates in the race to replace retiring Sonoma County Supervisor Valerie Brown, has dropped out of the contest.
Rhinehart, a Santa Rosa-area resident, former United Parcel Service supervisor and substitute teacher, said he needed to focus on a “family issue.”
He did not give further details in a brief interview Wednesday, saying only that he needed to shift his focus away from his campaign.
“It’s not fair to the constituency or the other candidates,” said Rhinehart, 59. “That’s the reason I’m leaving.”
With no political background or previous involvement in local government, Rhinehart was a surprise entry in January when he jumped into race for the 1st District county office, which takes in Sonoma Valley, including the city of Sonoma and eastern Santa Rosa.
He had filed his intent to run, pulled nominating papers and submitted campaign committee paperwork, but had not yet reported spending or raising $1,000, county elections officials said.
In his brief run, Rhinehart put forward a mixed platform that advocated cuts in government pensions and pay to enable an expansion of the county’s workforce and public services.
Last month, at the only candidates’ forum so far in the contest, he was the lone participant to outright oppose new taxes to provide funding for children’s services, a measure being considered by a coalition of care providers for the November ballot.
At the same event, however, he also floated an idea akin to government-paid universal health care, saying: “We need to reach out and make sure everybody has some kind of health care coverage.”
Rhinehart said he did not have any immediate plans to endorse in the race.
The remaining five candidates include Santa Rosa City Council members Susan Gorin and John Sawyer; Mark Bramfitt, a Sonoma Valley energy consultant; Gina Cuclis, a Boyes Hot Springs communications consultant; and Sonoma Mayor Joanne Sanders.
The next candidates’ forum is 7 p.m. March 8 at Ramekins Culinary School and Event Center, 450 W. Spain St., Sonoma. The event is sponsored by the Sonoma Index-Tribune.