Supervisor Efren Carrillo’s resounding re-election victory is an unmistakable sign of the political clout he has been able to amass in his first term, observers said Wednesday.
The 31-year-old son of Mexican immigrants captured 59 percent of the vote in the 5th District Supervisorial race, beating back two well-known opponents who challenged his environmental voting record.
His final vote tally was significantly more than the 50 percent majority he needed to avoid a November runoff.
“Efren emerges much stronger and in a much more influential position than 48 hours ago,” said Dave McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist.
On Wednesday, Carrillo said he was eager to address the key challenges facing the county, including balancing the budget, mitigating effects of the new tribal casino in Rohnert Park and dealing with the county’s pension problmes.
“I really think that we must do what we can to save taxpayer dollars to ensure continued quality services,” Carrillo said, adding that he and other board members are “committed to negotiating with bargaining units and finding some balance.”
McCuan pointed out that voters in San Jose and San Diego on Tuesday gave overwhelming support to proposals that cut retirement benefits for government workers.
“The question is now can (Carrillo) step into that leadership role” to avoid similar ballot measures in Sonoma County, McCuan said.
Jack Buckhorn, president of the North Bay Central Labor Council, said he was confident Carrillo would try to avoid such a conflict. The labor council, which opposed Carrillo four years ago, was a strong supporter this year.
Buckhorn said he believed that concessions on pension benefits could come out of collective bargaining.
“That’s the leadership that we expect form him and all the supervisors,” he said. “The leadership to make tough decisions. You don’t always make everybody happy.”
Even those who vigorously opposed Carrillo gave the young politician credit for his ability to secure a broad spectrum of support.
“Supervisor Carrillo did a good job of reaching out to his district over the past four years,” said Dennis Rosatti, executive director of Sonoma County Conservation Action, which endorsed Carrillo’s challengers, former Supervisor Ernie Carpenter of Sebastopol and former Santa Rosa City Councilwoman Veronica Jacobi.
Rosatti said that Carrillo was able to raise significant funds that allowed him to mobilize supporters during a low-turn out primary election.
Though unsuccessful, the challenge west county environmentalists waged against Carrillo succeeded in raising important issues, he said.
Opponents blasted Carrillo’s votes in favor of several controversial land-use projects, including the Dutra Materials asphalt plant outside Petaluma and the Best Family Winery project outside Graton.
But the campaign against him fell significantly short. Carpenter received 27.9 percent of the vote and Jacobi received 13 percent.
Carrillo on Wednesday struck a conciliatory tone.
“I would like to reach out to Ms. Jacobi and Mr. Carpenter,” he said. “They have value in the community.”
You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 521-5213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.