WatchSonoma Watch

North Coast voters to begin choosing Woolsey’s successor Tuesday


Sonoma County voters on Tuesday will begin the process of replacing retiring Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey and filling a heavily contested Assembly seat, likely creating first-ever runoffs between two Democrats.

The 2nd Congressional District candidates.

In addition, with new district boundaries in force for the first time, voters will have a say in four other races for Congress, the Assembly and state Senate.

Tuesday’s election, the first statewide vote under California’s top two primary system, is expected to set up three November run-offs between two Democrats instead of a Democrat and a Republican.

The 12-candidate race to replace Woolsey in a newly shaped North Coast district is likely to culminate in a November contest between Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, and another Marin County Democrat, either businesswoman Stacey Lawson or author/activist Norman Solomon.

The primary election system approved by state voters in 2010 stipulates that all legislative candidates appear on the same ballot and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party preference, advance to the November general election.

Assemblyman Michael Allen and upstart Democratic challenger Marc Levine, a San Rafael city councilman, are the likely November contestants in the new 10th Assembly District, topping a field of seven candidates in Tuesday’s primary. Allen, elected from Santa Rosa, has rented an apartment in Marin County in order to run in the newly configured district.

Democratic Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro of Arcata has a big experience and fund-raising lead in the third intra-party competition with Guerneville activist Tom Lynch for the 2nd Assembly District seat in November.

There are no Republicans in the primary, which includes 21-year-old Democratic newcomer Firenza Pini of Hayfork and Green Party member Pamela Elizondo of Laytonville.

The prospect of Republicans losing a place in three legislative races is a consequence of the party’s waning numbers on the North Coast.

The party is “nearly out of business,” said Brian Sobel, a Petaluma political consultant. “The (voter) registration numbers just don’t support them.”

Democrats outnumber Republican registered voters by more than 2 to 1 in the two congressional districts spanning Sonoma County and the North Coast.

Incumbent Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, faces two Republican challengers, both political newcomers. Running for his eighth term from a newly configured inland district, he has more than $1 million in campaign funds and is a strong bet to beat his opponent in November.

Huffman ranks as front-runner in the North Coast race based on his name recognition, endorsements covering the political spectrum and a fund-raising lead with more than $1 million, said Andy Merrifield, a Sonoma State University political science professor.

Lawson, a political newcomer who has raised more than $900,000, and Solomon, well-known among liberal Democrats, are vying for second place.

Five other Democrats, including Marin Supervisor Susan Adams and Petaluma Vice Mayor Tiffany Renee, trail far behind in the money-raising race.

Dan Roberts, a Mill Valley securities broker, would have a chance if he were the only Republican in the race, and a moderate one, as well, Merrifield said.

But Roberts will share a minority segment of the vote with Michael Halliwell of Cotati, who has lost three previous congressional bids.

No matter which Democrat ultimately prevails, Merrifield said voters will send a liberal to take Woolsey’s place in the House. Huffman, Lawson and Solomon are “inches apart” on an ideological scale, he said.

The new 2nd Congressional District extends from Marin County to the Oregon border. It excludes Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Cotati and Sonoma Valley, which are part of Thompson’s 5th District stretching to Napa and parts of Lake, Contra Costa and Solano counties.

The 10th Assembly District covers Marin County and includes Petaluma, Cotati, Sebastopol and the southern portion of Santa Rosa.

In the North Coast Assembly race, Chesbro has a political career dating back to 1974 and including two terms in both the state Senate and Assembly.

His reconfigured district takes in the northern portion of Santa Rosa and runs to the Oregon border.

Democratic Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada and Republican challenger John Munn, both from Davis, are competing in the 4th Assembly District, which takes in a small chunk of Sonoma County, including parts of Rohnert Park and the Sonoma Valley.

Regardless of Tuesday’s outcome, they will square off again in November.

Democratic state Sen. Lois Wolk of Davis is unopposed in the new 3rd Senate District, which includes Rohnert Park, Cotati, Petaluma and Sonoma.

(You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.)

9 Responses to “North Coast voters to begin choosing Woolsey’s successor Tuesday”

  1. Chuck G says:

    It doesn’t matter who wins the election, they will continue the corruption and mess that exists now

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  2. Chuck G says:

    There goes the neighborhood!

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  3. Grapevines says:

    Can anyone look at that picture of everyone who’s running and not be reminded of a pack of weasels?

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  4. Steve Klausner says:

    There is a big change in demographics with the redrawn district. Goodbye Wine Country hello Hemp Nation.

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  5. Steveguy says:

    Stacey is the cutest. Young enough to serve for years and decades too !

    Ohh, we always vote for the ones that got us into this mess. Oops.

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  6. Disaffected Voter says:

    Given the response to this article so far, I would say there is very little interest in the 12 dwarfs running for the seat. And why should there be any interest, they are all the same except for the haircuts.

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  7. Clay Mitchell says:

    Contrary to the assertion made in the last paragraph of this article (stating that Lois Wolk is running unopposed for State Senate in SD 3), there is a Republican challenger who is running and is a qualified write in candidate.


    As long as Mr. Clift gets more votes than any other write in, he will be on the November ballot as well.

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  8. Sandy Robertson says:

    Well Dr, Gunderson, anyone who has as their “vision” the excessive posting inanities and meaningless platitudes on the public news blog, without one speck of depth or insight into California’s serious issues certainly knows that you are their candidate for assembly and knows how to contact you. Must be nice running a campaign from your office in between neck cracking and “adjustments”?

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  9. Thank you for Voting! The CA State Assembly should be about vision, goals and putting the people of Sonoma first above parties, money or groups.

    If anyone has any questions on the CA State Assembly race contact me at drgunderson@hotmail.com. Thank you


    We face tough challenges. I support: Shollenberger Park, pension reform, water rights for agriculture, and single-payer healthcare. My solutions include: certifying Canadian pharmaceutical websites for safety to save our people 50-80% of their medicine costs, have 25% of credit card fees go to our schools, decrease school districts to reduce overhead and require multinational banks to loan a percentage of deposits to local small businesses. I believe in a healthy environment that balances sustainability with job creation and business prosperity.

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