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Environmental issues key in 5th District supervisor race

While supervisorial hopefuls Carpenter, Jacobi earn green support, Carrillo touts broader stance


There are almost 50,000 voters in Sonoma County’s 5th Supervisorial District, and Ernie Carpenter is betting that many of them won’t vote in the June primary.

The three candidates for the 5th District seat on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors debated last month. (Crista Jeremiason / PD)

What’s more, the 69-year-old candidate is banking that the lion’s share of most likely voters — those over 50 years old — will cast their ballots for him.

“If everyone with a little gray and slightly balding votes for me, I’m in good shape,” Carpenter quipped recently.

When he entered the race two months ago to challenge first-term incumbent Efren Carrillo, he both shocked the district and pleased one of its biggest constituencies — the conservation and environmental community.

Environmentalists had been concerned that Carrillo’s opponent, former Santa Rosa City Councilwoman Veronica Jacobi, was no match for Carrillo’s four years in office and his ability to raise money, as evidenced by his current campaign war chest of about $80,000.

Dennis Rosatti, executive director of Sonoma County Conservation Action, reiterated this week that Carpenter’s entry instantly turned an “election” into a “race.”

There will be a runoff in November of the top two finishers if no one wins more than 50 percent of the vote.

For his part, Carrillo, 31, rejects attempts to characterize him as pro-development at the expense of the environment. Carrillo, the first Latino elected to the board, says he balances his political views to also encourage jobs and says he’s worked to represent all of the district. Rampant development, he said, is a “ghost of Sonoma past.”

“They’re tilting at windmills that aren’t there anymore,” Carrillo said, adding that growth in Sonoma County has been sluggish for more than a decade.

“I frame my decisions with a lot of consideration and thought,” Carrillo said. “My job is to look at the realities before us, to recognize the need for jobs and the need to keep the community viable.”

Carrillo’s endorsements are extensive and include Rep. Mike Thompson, State Sen. Noreen Evans and Assemblymen Jared Huffman and Wes Chesbro. He also is endorsed by his fellow supervisors, District Attorney Jill Ravitch, Sheriff Steve Freitas, a number of former county supervisors, the North Bay Labor Council, the North Bay Association of Realtors, the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce and Sonoma County Alliance.

Jacobi, who served as a Santa Rosa councilwoman from 2006 to 2010, has been endorsed by Sonoma County Conservation Action, which also endorsed Carpenter, an unusual move for the group. Jacobi’s individual endorsements include Santa Rosa council members Marsha Vas Dupre and Gary Wysocky and former Petaluma Mayor Pamela Torliatt.

Jacobi, 53, said she’s raised about $18,000 for her campaign and has kept busy visiting areas across the expansive district while trying to keep her carbon footprint low. Whenever possible, she carpools to election forums and recently she rode a bus back from Jenner, engaging some of the riders in lively discussions.

At a recent forum, Jacobi said she has a “jobs and climate recovery plan” that would encourage the creation of a “green mecca” modeled after Silicon Valley. She also wants to promote a self-sustainable local food system.

“I have a proven voting record that takes care of people and doesn’t put big money above the greater good,” she said, adding that she “will never forget the future when solving current challenges.”

The district covers the largest area of county’s five supervisorial districts. It includes the coast, the lower Russian River area and all of Sebastopol, as well as areas of west and southwest Santa Rosa.

Redistricting added 2,167 people to the district, which included 97,005 in 2011. It has 49,039 registered voters.

One of the most significant changes was a newly drawn precinct in west Santa Rosa bounded by Fulton Road, West College Avenue, Marlow Road and Jennings Avenue that went from a little more than 700 registered voters to 1,345. Much of the neighborhood was formerly in the 4th District and, not surprisingly, all three candidates have campaigned there.

David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist, said redistricting changes — with votes added in the Santa Rosa section of the district — benefit Carrillo, who lives in west Santa Rosa.

At a forum late last month in Graton, the three candidates established their campaign priorities, and Carpenter and Carrillo set a decidedly personal tone by hammering away at each other.

Carpenter, who left office in late 1996 after serving as supervisor for 16 years, says he wants to get back in office to fix county roads, protect timberlands from vineyard conversion, focus on recycling and reuse and incorporate Santa Rosa’s Roseland neighborhood.

He says that in order to deal with long-term unfunded pension liabilities, the the county will likely have to implement various benefit caps and a “two-tier” system where county employees will be working side-by-side with different levels of benefits.

He criticizes board decisions on key environmental issues and claims that it is “slipping” in its land-use protections.

He cited Carrillo’s approval of the Dutra asphalt plant in Petaluma, gravel mining in the Russian River and the Best Family Winery project, which through a general plan amendment allowed a production facility, tasting room and vineyard to be placed in an apple orchard off Highway 116 and Occidental Road.

And there’s Preservation Ranch, the timber-to-vineyard conversion project on nearly 20,000 acres outside Annapolis that has become a rallying point for conservationists in the district.

During the Graton forum, Carrillo confronted the issue head-on, bringing it up before Carpenter or anyone else did. Carrillo fired back at Carpenter’s criticisms about Preservation Ranch, pointing out that back in the late 1990s, the former supervisor was a paid consultant for a project that preceded Preservation Ranch. In that plan, some 10,000 acres of coastal forest were to be converted to vineyards.

Rosatti, of Conservation Action, said his group endorsed both Carpenter and Jacobi because of their strong environmental positions. He said Jacobi’s “heart is absolutely in the right place.”

“Voting on the council, she was pretty right on,” Rosatti said. “As for climate change, we’re very happy that that voice is being brought up.”

He said Carrillo gets “high grades” for his extensive outreach in the district during his time in office, “but when it comes down to voting on the resource extraction issues, that’s when we have doubts.”

Eric Koenigshofer, a former 5th Distinct supervisor who is an adviser to Carrillo, said he has tried to represent all the constituents of the 5th District, not only the environmental community.

“Efren has demonstrated to people that he’s been a good conscientious protector of the environment and at the same time he’s trying to tend to the biggest problem that we have, and that is the condition of the economy,” Koenigshofer said. “When I listen to Ernie, it sounds like he’s running 25 years ago.”

Carrillo cites his work on the board in helping to launch the county’s Energy Independence Program as a way of putting people back to work. The program helps finance energy and water efficiency and renewable energy improvements through a voluntary assessment.

Carrillo said he’s helped bring federal dollars to the county for fisheries restoration and has expanded tourism opportunities, which are critical to the west county economy.

Lisa Maldonado, executive director of the North Bay Labor Council, which opposed Carrillo in 2008, said Carrillo’s performance in office has “changed our perception.”

“We basically have been convinced that he cares about working people and has tried hard to be open and be accessible to working families,” she said.

Maldonado said that while Carrillo’s biggest challenge comes from Carpenter supporters whose priority is protecting the environment, “there are very few single-issue voters in that district,” she said.

But Carpenter’s strategy is to get to those who are most likely to vote.

“I think we know that universe and we’re focused on it,” he said.


Age: 69
Residence: Sebastopol
Political background: 5th District Sonoma County supervisor from 1980 to 1996; political consultant
Other: Former social worker

Age: 31
Residence: Santa Rosa
Political background: 5th District Sonoma County supervisor
Other: Former financial counselor for Redwood Credit Union and president of the Southwest Community Health Center

Age: 53
Residence: Santa Rosa
Political background: Former Santa Rosa city councilwoman from 2006 to 2010
Other: Mechanical engineer specializing in energy management and conservation

(You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com.)

12 Responses to “Environmental issues key in 5th District supervisor race”

  1. Jim Bennett says:

    At the expense or being a broken record.

    The perverbial 800 lb. gorilla in the room is our ICLEI membership.
    THAT’S where all this extreme environmental oppression comes from.

    The expense of not recognizing/educating/engaging/acting on this breach of their Oath is the forfeiture of your Freedoms, your financial abundance, and your Country.

    No big deal.

    Green is just the guise, ’till we open our eyes.

    These globalists morphing our landscape through our ICLEI membership don’t care about the environment.

    Our ‘public servants’ are gulping the green Kool-Aid to keep their deal ‘Sustainable’.
    This ideology is SO pervasive in Calif. that failing to adhere makes you unemployable municipally.

    Join 55 other communities, and KICK ICLEI OUT!

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  2. Steveguy says:

    Good one Jim, dream on…….

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  3. Richard James Emory says:

    It seems with candidates running like this, this election is designed to distract us from the real issues facing the county.

    Things like the public pensions, government spending, debt and employment are all other worldly. No, lets all focus on carpools and riding buses.

    Most counties and cities in the United States are proud of the roads and highways. Not the Sonoma County government or these little politicans. They are proud of letting the roads go to dirt. Their world is upside down.

    What are they proud of? What do any of them offer?

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  4. bill says:

    All politicians are professionals unlike the rest of us and yet we are forced to vote for them.

    Democracy needs a wake up call. Money is not the same as people.

    As long as money rules the politicians we will all be slaves to money.

    Why do we have so many cops? We are not all criminals. the criminals run the banks.

    Why is the legal system and public safety eating up all of our tax dollars while our parks, schools and we get the shaft?

    It is because our democratic system is compromised by the 1% who have cornered all our money.

    Pot should be legal. But the public safety crowd would lose their high paying jobs.

    Alcohol should be the province of the medical community not the jailers.

    Alcoholics should only be allowed in driverless cars.

    Politicians should represent the will of the people.

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  5. Jim Bennett says:

    ‘Constitutional issues key to 5th District Congressonal Supervisor race’.

    OK, a guy can dream can’t he?

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  6. Camino Alto says:

    Carillo and Jared Huffman and Shirley Zane (and the list of PD endorsements goes on) are not Green, progressive or environmentalists. They don’t lean to the left. What they do is enable the status quo that is the PD’s political agenda. That’s purely why they endorse them. What you read in the newspapers is what they want you to read and nothing more.

    Carillo has alienated most of his constituents. He is certainly not very welcome in Petaluma either. Please make him a one-term wonder. We’ll be better off for it.

    The truth is out there. Go find it for yourself.

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  7. Carrillo Betrayed Petaluma says:

    Carrillo undermined the community of Petaluma severely with his vote in favor of Dutra. His rationale for doing so added insult to injury…he essentially said that Petaluma needs to take their fair share of negative impacts, rather than advocating for improving existing plants and advising they be located away from population centers. He is NOT a friend of the public interest. He’s a tool for the corporate interests and must be defeated. Tom Lynch is another Dutra advocate, so it isn’t surprising that he is backing Carrillo. Vote for someone who not only has more experience, but actually will vote to preserve our environment, rather than make empty claims.


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  8. Richard James Emory says:

    The Press Democrat has already made their recommendations and to no ones surprise, only the green, leftists got the nod.

    Now they are running yesterdays old news about the unexciting Carrillo race. He is in again and will defeat the deer in the headlights candidate Jacobi and the quirky Carpenter.

    How about some new news or at least a different approach to what is happening in the other races.

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  9. Tom Lynch says:

    I am one of the majority of grey haired over 50 voters that will be voting early and often for Supervisor Efren Carrillo. Having known Ernie for 25 years and Efren for 5 years, there is no doubt in my mind who is clearly the best choice for everyone and the environment if threw Fifth District.

    Vote for Efren Carrillo!

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  10. gigi says:

    I’m sorry, I’m confused was this written by the Press Democrat or a Efren supporter?

    Thumb up 22 Thumb down 8

  11. RICHARD says:

    EFREN CARRILLO is a wholy owned subsidiary of crass commercial interest. He follows the money and that will lead to no good for the people.

    VOTE FOR ERNIE CARPENTER 5th District Sonoma County supervisor, PLEASE.

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  12. It would have been nice if the PD covered the State Assembly race as good as this one.

    Thumb up 8 Thumb down 10

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