There’s been a flurry of late negative campaigning in the 1st Supervisorial District between Santa Rosa Vice Mayor John Sawyer and City Councilwoman Susan Gorin.
Late last week, an independent expenditure committee — the same group responsible for an earlier mailer portraying Sawyer as Pinocchio — sent out another negative mailer. This one reads “Who will Sawyer work for?” and raises questions about contributions he has received from business interests including the North Bay Leadership Council.
The Sawyer campaign shot back with a couple of robocalls over the weekend. One targets Gorin noting that although the Pinocchio mailer criticized Sawyer for raising development fees and business taxes while on the Santa Rosa City Council, Gorin also voted for those increases. The other call contends Gorin “did not lift a finger” when she was mayor to address runaway pension costs while Sawyer recently approved agreements that will save Santa Rosa “millions” that can be spent on “parks, potholes and gang prevention.”
Well, not exactly. Most of that money is savings the city is counting on to drive down the escalating cost of retirement benefits and avoid making more cuts. And although Gorin voted against those new labor contracts with police and fire unions, it was because she felt the city could have negotiated for more substantial pension savings.
“We need to go further,” she said in rejecting the firefighters contract on April 4.
Lost in all of this is the fact that there are four other candidates in this race — all of whom live in the Sonoma Valley itself where the turnout is expected to be higher than in Santa Rosa.
A little more than half of the voters in the 1st District live in Santa Rosa. The rest live in the valley, where residents consider this their local election. The outcome will hinge on whether the votes in this race are divided based on geography or political philosophy. If it’s the former, it still could come down to Gorin and Sawyer as the final two in the fall. If it’s philosophical, it’s anybody’s guess.
Here’s one prediction: It may be days before it’s clear who the top two contenders in this contest will be.
— Paul Gullixson