WatchSonoma Watch

Gorin claims victory in race for county supervisor seat; Sawyer concedes



Riding a late wave of voting results, Santa Rosa City Councilwoman Susan Gorin boosted her cushion over rival John Sawyer and claimed victory Wednesday in a tight

Noreen Evans, right, greets Susan Gorin during an election night party Tuesday Nov. 6, 2012 (Kent Porter / PD)

race for an open seat on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.

Although thousands of mail-in ballots remain uncounted from the election Tuesday, Gorin, 60, a former Santa Rosa mayor and six-year council member, voiced confidence that the result will hold and an eagerness to get to work in her new full-time job.

She was buoyant and sleep-deprived as she fielded dozens of congratulatory messages, including a call from Supervisor Valerie Brown, whose 1st District seat she is set to assume in January.

“We are celebrating,” Gorin said. “I’m looking to create lots of opportunities for people and groups to work with me on issues they feel are important.”

Sawyer, 57, a Santa Rosa councilman since 2004, conceded the hard-fought race in an interview and said he planned to call Gorin at some point.

He said it was unlikely he could eliminate the 1,299-vote margin that separated the two candidates Wednesday, a larger margin than the approximately 400-vote lead Gorin had enjoyed most of Tuesday night.

“To start out even a few hundred votes behind is never a good indicator,” he said. “I’m thankful for the support I received. It was heartening.”

Gorin and Sawyer are longtime rivals on the Santa Rosa council and were favorites in the race from the beginning, long before the June primary, as they sought to represent a much wider swath of the county. The 1st District encompasses Sonoma, Sonoma Valley and eastern Santa Rosa.

They engaged in a contest that was bruising at times, including their own attacks and those launched by their proxies. Spending in the race, including independent expenditures, topped $720,000 as of last week. The county record of more than $815,000 was set in the 2010 2nd District race between David Rabbitt and Pam Torliatt.

Gorin was backed by environmental groups, the county’s largest public-sector labor union and the Democratic Party. Sawyer, who led the money race throughout, was supported by large agriculture, business and real estate groups, as well as labor unions representing law enforcement.

The stakes were high because many see the outcome as pivotal in determining the political direction of the Board of Supervisors. That includes decisions affecting county services, from roads and parks to labor agreements and aid programs.

While a win by Sawyer would have preserved the status quo, according to Sonoma State University political scientist David McCuan, Gorin’s election shakes up the picture.

“Clearly the board’s center of gravity has shifted,” he said.

On controversial land-use issues, the board may now have a three-member majority, including Gorin and Supervisors Shirlee Zane and Mike McGuire, that favors tighter county oversight.

“I think we now may have a much better chance of some good environmental policies coming out of the board with Susan elected,” said Dennis Rosatti, executive director of Sonoma County Conservation Action, which backed Gorin.

Others disputed the election signaled a larger change in board direction.

“I think for the last three decades the board has been liberal,” said Eric Koenigshofer, a Sawyer supporter and former Sonoma County supervisor who served in the late 1970s. He cited previous agreement on county planning efforts and open space protection as examples of broadly shared environmental values.

Gorin acknowledged she could factor heavily in any board shift, but downplayed the existence of hardened voting blocks.

“Not all elected representatives vote in lock-step,” she said. “There will be differences large and small in how we vote on different issues.”

Based on projected voter turnout, county officials said there could be 7,000 mail-in ballots uncounted in the 1st District. Gorin suggested the number could be even higher, at around 11,000, including provisional ballots.

Consultants on both sides of the race and independent experts suggested it is unlikely that the outstanding ballots would reverse Gorin’s lead. Wednesday’s results included a majority of mail-in ballots expected from the district and all 104 precincts.

County officials said they plan to have a tally of the uncounted ballots by the end of this week. The ballots could take as long as 28 days to be verified and the final vote count must be certified three days after that.

Gorin is set to forgo the last two years of her second city council term to assume the county job, which pays $134,000 annually, plus benefits. She said she would use the next several weeks to plan her move into the office.

“I’m going to learn as much about the job and the number of appointments I make so that transition will occur smoothly and seamlessly,” she said.

Sawyer’s second term on the council will end in early December, leaving him without a political platform for the first time since 2004. He said he hadn’t had time to reflect on his future.

“I’ve been so concentrated on this race I haven’t thought about what it means to just be a private citizen,” he said. “Whether I like it or not — I guess it’s like retirement. You don’t know until you try it.”

You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or brett.wilkison@pressdemocrat.com.



14 Responses to “Gorin claims victory in race for county supervisor seat; Sawyer concedes”

  1. FACTS says:

    MOCKINGBIRD and others,

    These are the facts,

    Susan won because she lied. Sad if that makes her victory feel good to her and her left wing crowd who’s nastiness make them no better than the Tea Party. Examples:

    1. John received $50,000 from an LA based real estate development PAC. Susan and John sought the endorsement and money from the North Coast Real Estate group. Their accountant is in LA but the contributions were from local sources. John got the endorsement and Susan pitched a fit and spun this lie.

    2. John inherited and then lost his business – he can’t even run his small business. John bought Sawyer’s News from his family and ran it for 35 years, They sold newspapers, magazines, cards and not much else. Between Barnes and Nobles moving in across the street, Googke News and online newspapers and the downturn in the economy John was forced to close. Nobody could have survived.

    3. John is a Rebublican. He’s a moderate Democrat which may look like a Republican to the left wing, much like the Tea Party must think moderate Republicans are Democrats. Regardless a Supervisor is supposed to be a non partisan race. They represent everyone. Shirlee Zane, Ernie Carpenter, Veronica Jacobi and Efren Carrillo sought the Republican Party Statement of Preference. So did John, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of for anyone who truly wants to represent everyone.

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  2. Snarky says:


    Not to say I’m a “right winger”… because to label people of either side is really a brainless tactic by those unable to converse with facts….

    But with regard to bike lanes…

    The problem I have with them is that every time some government agency screams they want to spend a billion or two billion dollars on some project… they always mention “bike lanes.”

    And the funny thing is… we NEVER see bike lanes funded specifically for bike lanes.

    I, for one, would vote for bike lane installs and upgrades… but I seriously dislike being taxed to fund a bike lane with a TRAIN or HIGHWAY OVERPASS attached to the idea.

    And to extend the discussion on bike lanes, the government bureaucrats who steal our money to be used for bike lanes… and then let them go into disrepair like they are all over Sonoma County… well…. I’d be in favor of the job REQUIREMENT that those bureaucrats get their own buttt on the bike and ride.

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  3. Snarky says:

    While the new owners of the Press Democrat backslap each other, I wonder if they will direct the staff to actually do their jobs and report news important to the community rather than never ending DUI reporting.

    How about this?

    THREE out of the first four cities audited by State Controller John Chang have been found to be illegally siphoning off re-development $$ for their general funds ?

    THAT is a 75% rate of criminality among the cities audited so far. And we all know that a few cities in Sonoma County were attempting to pull the same illegal stunt.


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  4. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    What is it with you right wingers with your obsession about bike lanes? It seems that if it makes sense, and people WILL BE SAFE, you are against it?

    When the bike is in the bike lane they aren’t blocking your car when you’re driving down the road. You should be grateful.

    There are cities in Europe who do not allow cars downtown. They have free public transportation, garages for bikes and motor scooters, and a very clean easy to shop downtown.

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  5. RAW says:

    At least now Gorin can close up her valley house in Oakmont and move back up to fountaingrove to rule from the roost. I am sure that whole carpetbagging thing was getting tiring. I am happy her commute is much short now, since she is the green supervisor now.

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  6. Betty R says:

    time to move from this district as all we will be seeing is bike lanes where bikes lanes should not be and guess who will be paying for them? you and me and the folks who voted her in!

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  7. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Terry, I live in the district, though I will work for any candidate that represents the workers AND the small businesses. I called and I can say for certain we talked about her, not Sawyer. All we would have said about Sawyer, if people asked, was that he was endorsed by the big business and big ag interests in the county which is true.

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  8. Terry says:

    Well, it looks like I was already proved wrong about Susan Gorin. I stated earlier that I hoped Susan would move to the middle ground since she did not receive a clear mandate in the election. What happened instead is that she is campaigning for Gary Wysocky to become the mayor of Santa Rosa.

    For those of you that follow Santa Rosa’s Council, you’ll know imediately that Wysocky shows a clear disdain and disrespect to applicants that come before the council on projects. He and his appointees often berate applicants before the dais. He is often rude, and has often acted in a disrespectful manner to his other councilmembers. That is why he barely won reelection and had the slate not been filled with people that dropped out, he most likely would not have won.

    Gorin showed a complete lack of respect to the other REMAINING council members who will be fulfilling their terms and should be the ones to decide and discuss this issue as well as the facts mentioned above.

    True to form. I was hoping for her to move to the center because of her new position in representing a broader base of people, but that was overly optimistic…sad.

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  9. Grapevines says:

    Might as well start stocking up on the triangular slow vehicle signs now east county. Gorin will have not only bicycle lanes mandatory but probably horse and buggy pathways required everywhere.

    You’ve just made a gigantic leap backwards about 100 years. Hope the local economy survives the assault her and her legions are going to wage on it.

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  10. Vinyl Rules says:

    Love beat money in this race. And that is very refreshing.

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  11. Wilson says:

    I’m very glad that Susan Gorin won this seat. She will represent all of those people of Sonoma County who David Rabbitt and Efren “he hit my fist with his face” Carillo don’t.

    Sawyer’s main reason for running was the same as Rabbitt’s two years ago. He needed a paycheck. Any bets on how fast the announcement is made that Sawyer has been hired as a “consultant” for some construction concern?

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  12. Terry says:


    Not true. Nasty mailers were also put out by I.E.s from within the Gorin Camp. I have friends in that district that showed them to me. You would not know that unless you lived in the district to see for yourself??? Both sides did this and two wrongs do not make a right. I am not basing my point of view on mailers and phone calls, or even labels perpetuated by others, but what I have observed in Council hearings and meetings I have attended where she has spoken. It is time to move on, and I hope Susan recognizes that half of her electorit did not vote for her. She needs to demonstrate that she represents them too. Time will tell.

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  13. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Terry-Susan’s anti business label was given to her by John Sawyer. I have never seen such nastiness from someone running. I received nasty phone calls from his people telling lies about Susan. I received nasty mail, AND ONE FRAUDULENT ONE saying “Democratic Voter Guide” saying that he was endorsed by the Democratic party when he was NOT. That’s being investigated right now. I hope they nail him.

    I called for Susan and I can say that we did NOT use those tactics. We just answered people’s questions and extolled her work skills. And she got elected.


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  14. Terry says:

    Hopefully Susan Gorin will work on repairing her damaging reputation for being anti business now that she has won and realize that the voters want balance, not extremes and hypocrisy. Please Susan, prove me wrong.

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