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Campaign war chests in 1st district supervisor’s race dwindle, for now


Having already spent nearly a quarter million dollars between them, the candidates for the 1st District county supervisorial seat headed into the fall election with diminished bank accounts.

Predictions — and election history — suggest a long, costly contest encompassing east Santa Rosa and the Sonoma Valley. And indications are that what has so far been a hard-fought race will again veer into hostile tactics.

John Sawyer and Susan Gorin

“I think it’s going to heat up considerably,” said Brian Sobel, a Petaluma-based political consultant.

Santa Rosa City Councilwoman Susan Gorin had the most cash on hand at the start of the July, with $12,724. Between May 20 and June 30, a period that included the June 5 primary, she spent more than twice what she raised, $29,498 versus $12,540, the latest campaign finance statements show.

“We satisfied our fundraising goals and we raised some extra on top of that,” Gorin said, “so we have some cash going into the general election.”

Her rival, Santa Rosa Councilman John Sawyer, reported just $683 left on July 1, despite loaning his campaign $16,300. The loan, he said, went to combat a late surge of negative mailers from an independent expenditure committee aligned with Gorin.

“That was a direct response … and not one I planned for,” Sawyer said.

Not including the personal loan, Sawyer raised $17,249 over the 42-day period. He spent $42,704.

In the June primary to replace outgoing Supervisor Valerie Brown of Sonoma, Gorin and Sawyer finished in a virtual dead heat as they took the top two spots out of six contenders to qualify for the runoff. Gorin was ahead by 186 votes out of 27,811 cast.

In Gorin’s fundraising report, most of her contributors were individuals, including Sonoma resident Theodore Eliot, an advisor to the county Open Space District and a former ambassador to Afghanistan, and Kumari Sivada, an activist with the Sonoma County Alliance for Medical Marijuana.

But just over half of what Gorin brought in, $6,465, came from independent expenditure committees.

They included the progressive Concerned Citizens for Santa Rosa, which gave her $2,625; Noreen Evan’s state Senate campaign committee, $1,000; the sheet metal workers union local, $1,000, and the county Democratic Central Committee, $1,000.

Sawyer’s campaign raised $14,250 of the $17,239 it brought in from eight independent committees. He had 18 donors, including Deputy District Attorney Jill Ravitch, who gave $100, and fellow Councilman Scott Bartley, $250.

Independent committees backing his campaign included the Sonoma Law Enforcement Association, Sonoma County Alliance, a group of business, agriculture and labor interests, and California Real Estate, each contributing $2,625. The North Bay Leadership Council and the Building Industry Association of the Bay Area each gave $1,000.

“Susan has rainmakers on her side, labor, some environmental groups,” said Sonoma State University political scientist David McCuan. “But Sawyer has those on his side as well, the public safety groups, those folks in Santa Rosa’s business community.”

The most expensive supervisorial campaign yet was the 2010 2nd District contest between Petaluma councilmembers Pam Torliatt and David Rabbitt, the eventual winner.

Rabbitt and Torliatt spent a combined $706,000. That amount does not include what independent committees put into the election.

Neither Gorin nor Sawyer said how much they have raised since — but both “should be loading up at this point,” said McCuan. “It’s going to be fought early, it’s not going to wait until the typical Labor Day kickoff.”

Together, the two campaigns went through $238,867 from Jan. 1 to June 30. Gorin, who earlier loaned herself $10,000, had spent $107,863 and Sawyer $130,998.

McCuan suggested the winning candidate will have to spend in the neighborhood of $100,000 more.

But Gorin’s campaign consultant Terry Price said that was far too low.

“I would anticipate that Sawyer would probably spend closer to $200,000,” Price said.

For her part, Gorin said, “It’s not my big goal to match John Sawyer dollar for dollar.”

She said she is relying on a “field campaign” and that many of her small donors — 27 of her 41 contributors in the latest report gave her $200 or less — volunteer to make campaign telephone calls, canvas precincts or send emails.

“My goal is not to raise big contributions and throw money at the election, but to use our resources very carefully,” she said.

Sawyer said that Price, in forecasting a steep campaign price tag, was, perhaps, tipping his hand.

“Maybe it’s a suggestion that I’m going to need to spend a large amount of money defending myself,” he said.

As for his own fundraising, he said, “Are we on track in our current expenses? Yes. Do I have enough money in the bank to finish the campaign? No. That’s what we’re working on now.”

A dearth of other close, local races, and the distance between the two candidates’ platforms, will benefit both candidates’ fundraising efforts, McCuan and Sobel said.

“The 1st District is going to become a magnet for all kinds of money that’s out there, so the heat in that race should get pretty negative,” McCuan said.

“It’s the marquee race in the county,” said Sobel. “Anybody with an interest in either the platform of Gorin or Sawyer will be compelled to give money to those campaigns.”

Sawyer’s campaign consultant Rob Muelrath indicated that his candidate, stung by the primary attacks he blames for his second place finish, will play hard offense.

“The public doesn’t know anything negative about Susan yet,” Muelrath said. “Will they? Probably. Will it hurt her? Probably. But then again, there’s going to be things coming out against John. It’s going to be a fight to the finish.”

19 Responses to “Campaign war chests in 1st district supervisor’s race dwindle, for now”

  1. Annie Erving says:

    The public will say, like a recent Republician candidate………LET THOSE WITHOUT HEALTH CARE die…………….die………….die………….die………..die.

    Can the Republicans say DIE ANY LOUDER?

    Vote for GORIN

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  2. Rick says:

    I know Sawyer wants a balanced budget. I know Gorin will say anything and then go along with the crowd. The crowd isn’t doing very well so I would settle for a balanced budget.

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  3. George L. Marshall says:

    John Sawyer is an indifferent business owner at best. He was not on the ball and obviously did not keep pace with business developments in his own field. If he was unable to manage changes and challenges in his own business why should he be allowed to manage the County’s business?

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  4. Paul says:

    George Marshall: You can disagree with John Sawyer’s politics…I do too! BUT starting your post with a canard “ran his family business into the ground” throws a shadow over any truth you want to promote. The FACT is that Sawyer’s Newsstand was a victim of economic times, the internet, dwindling magazine sales, and very importantly, the LOSS (went out of business) of the major distributor that Sawyer’s Newsstand bought the majority of it’s magazines through. I know for a FACT that John Sawyer kept that business going for a long while when the only profit went to pay the employees. It did not make money for quite a while before closing the doors. Other than that, I’m with ya! Paul

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  5. bill me says:

    Thomas is spot on. Gorin is bought and paid for by SEIU. If you want NO economic development, vote for Gorin. She will simply maintain the “entitlement” process for the special interest groups.

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  6. Reality Check says:


    You’re arguing the merits of Sawyer, which is fine. And he probably is better than Gorin. That’s wasn’t my point, although Sawyer would hardly shake things up on Administration Drive, which needs to be done.

    Gorin is a savvy politician who will win many moderate votes. That is reality, like it or not.

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  7. Snarky says:

    Enough with the political Dem vs GOP dribble.

    What is Gorin’s actual employment background?

    Does she have any job expertise at all?

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  8. George L. Marshall says:

    John Sawyer is the “Pro Business” businessman who ran his families business into the ground. Why would anyone vote for someone who couldn’t keep his own business running? He has done nothing on the city council but give his buddies the police every thing they ask for at the taxpayers expense. He supports his cronies asphalt plant in the middle of Santa Rosa and cares more about the winery donations he gets from the first district than the real people who live there. No way am I voting for this tool.

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  9. bill says:

    I have talked to Susan. She is a reasonable human being. But she needs to get a life beyond politics. One term is enough for any of us.

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  10. bill says:

    new blood is needed………these are career politicians with vested interests …

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  11. Reality Check says:

    People on the political right are too willing to embrace the lesser evil. The sad reality is that Sawyer, a big govt moderate Democrat, will lose. Why any Republican would gravitate to him is beyond me.

    The choice here is bad and worse. Who wants to cheer for bad?

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  12. Thomas says:

    @Reality Check. HA! “Gorin is the more liberal. Gorin will win.” Perhaps you need a reality check:
    (The 1st District) seat in recent history has gone to a Republican or to a centrist Democrat” – The Press Democrat, May 6

    Susan Gorin stands for SEIU, which with 1,700 county employees will be her puppet master as the government and public understands the need for pension reform. They proved this by pouring $36,000 in attack ads against John Sawyer(see page 8: http://campaigndocs.sonoma-county.org/CFD_Web_Images/2012%5C026%5C00002620120524F12.pdf).

    Susan is also the zero economic growth candidate and zero job growth candidate, so can you please explain her comprehension of “retail politics.” She and her well-to-do engineering husband still own their home in elitist Fountaingrove and rent in Oakmont…surely the carpetbagger will move back to her luxurious digs when she isn’t elected.

    Susan Gorin is wrong for Sonoma County. We need jobs. We need economic growth. We NEED John Sawyer.

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  13. Steveguy says:

    Alas, Reality Check is right. You may not like it, but the Unions, Enviros, and Agenda 21 folks will pour cash in and win, so she can spend more money than we have.

    She abides by the Agenda, she toes the line, she doesn’t see that she is bankrupt us, ( or she sees the plum to pick, ka-ching ) !!!

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  14. Reality Check says:

    It’s fun to talk but this. But does anyone doubt who will win? It won’t be close. Gorin is the more liberal. Gorin will win. Rabbit’s upset in rural south county may be the upset of the decade. It won’t repeat. Besides, Gorin is far better at retail politics.

    The only thing in doubt here is how much money business interests will waste on Sawyer.

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  15. Steveguy says:

    @ Vinyl Rules– So, in your mind a newsstand that sold n actual paper newspapers and magazines had a problem staying open ? Have you heard that sales are way down for print ?

    I heard about that on the internet years ago.

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  16. Vinyl Rules says:

    Can someone please enlighten me? How can someone run as the “small business candidate” when their namesake business failed miserably?

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  17. Terry says:

    If you want public worker pensions to continue to drain our county, then vote for Gorin. If you want someone who panders to the SEIU and union thugs, then vote for Gorin. If you want to see jobs to continue to disappear in this county, then vote for Gorin. If you like failing roads and potholes, then vote for Gorin. BUT, if you want to see reason and balance to the issues that confront this county, then vote for John Sawyer for Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.

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  18. Missy says:

    Gorin is awful awful and is only in favor of raising our taxes. Is this what we want Sonoma County? Vote for Sawyer, he’s not perfect but he’s better than Gorin.

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  19. Judy D says:

    The public doesn’t know anything about Susan Gorin. Where has this guy been. Gorin is a big tax, big spending, big deficit liberal who never saw a spending cause she didn’t vote for.

    If you want the Board of Supervisors to continue to move in the wrong direction, Gorin is your girl. She supports the occupy crowd, the public unions and all they stand for including massive wage and benefit spending.

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