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Sawyer, Gorin turning focus to fall race


Hours after advancing to a runoff for an open seat on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, Susan Gorin and John Sawyer, both buoyant and sleep-deprived Wednesday, were already charting their next moves.

Their showdown this fall could produce the swing vote on controversial land-use issues and factor heavily in decisions about economic development, pension system overhaul and spending on county services including road upkeep.

John Sawyer and Susan Gorin

Gorin and Sawyer, rivals on the Santa Rosa City Council, said they expected the race to be hard-fought, with back-and-forth debate over their divergent voting records, dueling expenditures by outside interests, and different visions for the future of the county.

“Any time you have a runoff, it becomes more divisive than a multi-person race,” said Gorin.

The November election, with two sitting Santa Rosa council members vying for a district stretching to the Napa County line, could be “historic in nature,” Sawyer said.

The battle is for the 1st District seat held since 2002 by Valerie Brown, a former Sonoma mayor and state legislator who lives outside of Kenwood. The district takes in the Sonoma Valley, including the towns of Glen Ellen and Kenwood, the city of Sonoma and much of eastern Santa Rosa.

Claiming the post will require garnering more support in Sonoma Valley along with solidifying a Santa Rosa base, both candidates said in separate interviews Wednesday.

“It’s number one on my list,” Sawyer said.

“That’s the first order of business,” Gorin said.

The day-after jockeying took place as two of the three main contenders from Sonoma Valley traded shots over their loss.

The top vote-getter among them, Gina Cuclis, a Boyes Hot Springs communications consultant who entered the race first in June, blamed Sonoma Mayor Joanne Sanders, saying she had further splintered valley voters when she entered the race in February.

“Joanne Sanders Ralph Nadered Sonoma Valley,” Cuclis said, “meaning there were too many candidates in the race.”

Cuclis, Sanders and the third Sonoma-based candidate, Mark Bramfitt, had 17, 16 and 14 percent of the vote, respectively. Sawyer and Gorin tallied just over 23 percent each, with Sawyer ahead by only 86 votes Wednesday.

“All that I would have needed was less than half of her (Sander’s) votes,” Cuclis said. “She never had a chance entering in February. That’s why people are pointing the finger at her.”

Sanders, in response, said she entered the race as a two-term city councilwoman focused on a major valley issue – the February dissolution of redevelopment projects, including the Highway 12 roadway and sidewalk improvements. Her campaign also focused on reducing county pension and salary costs.

“I think my candidacy brought forward some issues that wouldn’t have been brought forward,” Sanders said.

She said there was no way to say her voters would have otherwise thrown their support behind Cuclis or Bramfitt had she not entered the race.

“It sounds like someone has sour grapes to me,” Sanders said.

Bramfitt, an energy consultant endorsed by Brown in the primary, said the divide vote in the valley was a major factor in the outcome but that the finger pointing was misplaced.

“When Joanne got into the race it was just going to be really difficult for a valley candidate to make it into the runoff,” he said.

Neither Brown nor any other power broker in the valley stepped forward to ask one of the candidates to drop out, he said.

Brown “could have asked Joanne, Gina or me not to run, and I’m not sure she would have held sway over any of us,” he said.

Brown, who was in Washington, D.C. this week, could not be reached for comment.

Gorin and Sawyer said their runoff would serve to illustrate key differences in their politics that may not have been apparent in the primary.

Gorin, a former city planning commissioner, is seen as an advocate for stronger planning and development oversight, a platform favored by environmental interests that are backing her campaign.

Sawyer is a former small business owner who touts a less strict“common sense” approach to land use regulation that has drawn support from business and agriculture groups.

Both have earned support from organized labor. Gorin is backed by Service Employees International Union Local 1021, the county’s largest labor group. Sawyer has received support from public safety unions.

Their fundraising outpaced the Sonoma Valley candidates in the primary, and Gorin and Sawyer said they expect that level of activity — and the barbs that come with it — to continue.

“I expect our demeanor at the council to be respectful,” Sawyer said. He added, however, that his guard would be up for duration of the campaign. “I need to be prepared for surprises,” he said.

Gorin also said she would be alert.

“I’m not going to go out of my way to create controversy on the city council. That’s not part of my job,” she said. “But I’m certainly going to disagree with John when I think it benefits the community, just as I have done in the past.”

7 Responses to “Sawyer, Gorin turning focus to fall race”

  1. Tom Reynolds says:

    If I lived in the Sonoma Valley I’d be pretty embarrassed and upset. Gina Cuclis was the best candidate and voters should have clearly seen this. So now because of complacent voters in our 2st district the valley will soon be represented by an Santa Rosa diplomat…not a true Sonoma Valley representative. Pathetic is certainly the word that comes to mind.

  2. Johnathon says:

    Once again we’re left to decide between a bankrupt business person owned by the public safety unions, or a carpetbagger who moved into the District and is owned by the Sierra Club.

    How do we get “NONE OF THE ABOVE” added to the ballot?

  3. Paul Oppenheimer says:

    John Sawyer ran his own family business into the ground how is he supposed to know what’s good for business? He took a profitable long time family business that has been downtown for decades and screwed it up, leaving another big empty storefront. The only jobs Sawyer has protected are those of overpaid police officers he made a backroom deal with to get their endorsement at the expense of everything and everyone else in the city. No thanks I don’t think we need Mr Sawyer’s business “expertise”

  4. Vinyl Rules says:

    I find it ironic and honestly sad that Sawyer touts himself as “the small business candidate”. His namesake business failed. I loved Sawyer’s News, but it’s business model was clearly not profitable enough to sustain operations. I know the newspaper and magazine business is changing rapidly, and there is no doubt that was a cause of the demise of Sawyer’s business. But he failed miserably at the very centerpiece of his campaign message. He also has taken no courage on curtailing the lavish public safety pay and benefits while on the Santa Rosa City Council. He has consistently voted the way those interests wanted, and likewise has consistently benefited from their largesse. I don’t consider pensions to be anywhere close to the major issue in this campaign. But if you as a voter do, why would you vote for Sawyer? If you consider business experience as an important credential for public office, again why would you vote for Sawyer?

  5. Mark says:

    John Sawyer will be the one to help create jobs. That’s the #1 issue in my mind. More jobs will jump-start spending & finally boost home sales and prices,both of which generates additional tax revenue. It has a domino effect. WE NEED ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT; there are too many blighted areas and crumbling roads. Gorin voted against Chic-fil-A because of the drive-thru and “discrimination” to cyclists. Those that drive by know the place is a dump and the new business will improve the area, create jobs and bring new life to an existing building that always had a drive-thru. Long of the short of it, Sawyer has the record that will bring: jobs+spending+revenue=OPPORTUNITY for those struggling who need jobs and can’t afford to look or wait for another 2 to 4 years, along with the additional tax revenue!

  6. Accountable says:

    Neither of these people have any business sense. It took me about an hour to discover this gem of information. When Gorin was Mayor & Sawyer was on the Council, we paid a City Manager @ $231,000/yr, a Deputy City Manager @ $190,000/yr, and an Asst to the City Manager @ $79,000/yr. Grand Total of $500,000/yr.

    Last year, when both Gorin & Sawyer sat on the City Council, we hired a City Manager @ $213,000/yr, an Asst City Manager @ $160,000/yr, with an Asst to the City Manager @ $79,000/yr. Grand Total of $452,000/yr.

    But wait, if one of them had done a little research for comparable cities, they would have discovered that Pomona has exactly the same number of people as Santa Rosa. They have a City Manager @ $216,000/yr and an Asst to the City Manager @ $97,000. NO DEPUTY OR ASSISTANT CITY MANAGER! Grand Total of $313,000. Maybe we could turn the streetlights back on with the money we could save hiring a competent City Manager in the first place.

    They were CLUELESS on the City Council and they will continue to be CLUELESS on the B.O.S. But as a Supervisor they will make an absurd amount of money for the size of the county http://www.kenwoodpress.com/pub/a/6268?full=1.

    The State Controller website http://lgcr.sco.ca.gov/ has all sorts of interesting information. It is mindboggling that we pay a City Manager with 163,000 people more than Governor Brown makes.

  7. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Gorin may be a progressive but she has made some very wise, moderate decisions while working on the city council. She is more balanced between business and the workers than Sawyer is. She works toward fairness for both sides.

    Sawyer bought his votes with big money, an expensive 24?page insert in the PD which he again mailed to be received the weekend before election. He also bought the favor of the city’s safety employees’ who got VERY favorable contracts while the rest of the city employees got bupkis. He talks about controlling pensions but I guess that only means for some. Fairness is not in his nature.

    I voted and worked for Gorin because I wanted a fair minded practical person who will look at all sides of an issue and come to the most reasonable decision for all sides when she votes.