WatchSonoma Watch

Fewer and fewer Republicans on North Coast



Imagine a Republican county supervisor from Crescent City winning the North Coast seat in Congress and holding onto it for 20 years.

That’s what happened when Don Clausen, a World War II veteran, won the 1962 election in a district that stretched — as it does now, with some variations — from Marin County to Oregon.

But that area of rugged coastline and liberal-leaning voters now has no Republicans in Congress or the Legislature, nor does any GOP candidate have a shouting chance of success in today’s election.

Rep. Mike Thompson, a St. Helena Democrat who never has lost an election on the North Coast, is a safe bet to beat Republican Randy Loftin, a political newcomer, in a new inland congressional district that includes Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Cotati and the Sonoma Valley.

Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, also is highly favored to beat Republican Dan Roberts in the race for the North Coast seat left open by the retirement of Rep. Lynn Woolsey, a Petaluma Democrat who held her seat for 20 years.

In two of the three Assembly races that include parts of Sonoma County, there is no Republican on today’s ballot, as Democrats prevailed in June’s open primary that sent the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, to a November runoff.

Veteran Democratic Assemblyman Wes Chesbro of Arcata is expected to clobber Guerneville activist Tom Lynch in the 2nd Assembly District, while Assemblyman Michael Allen of Santa Rosa and San Rafael City Councilman Marc Levine are in a heated 10th District race.

Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, and her Republican challenger, John Munn, are competing in the 4th Assembly District, which covers a small chunk of Sonoma County, including parts of Rohnert Park and the Sonoma Valley.

The dilemma for Republicans is largely numerical, as their share of registered voters has dramatically shrunk over the past 50 years on the North Coast and in Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake counties.

Even in 1962, when Clausen took the congressional seat from Democrats, that party had a 53 percent majority of voters and a nine-point advantage over the GOP.

Democrats now account for 49 percent of voters but lead Republicans by a whopping 27 percentage points.

In Sonoma County, Democrats are 30 points ahead, in Mendocino 24 points and in Lake County 16 points.

The last Republican to represent the North Coast in Congress was Frank Riggs, who won the seat in 1990, 1994 and 1996.

Riggs, now active in Arizona politics, dropped out of the 1998 race won by Thompson, who has locked down the seat since.

“Republicans have hemorrhaged voters,” said David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist.

The Republicans who have challenged Democratic incumbents Thompson, Woolsey and Chesbro over the past 10 to 20 years are “sacrificial lambs,” McCuan said.

They are typically political neophytes with scant cash, like Loftin, who raised less than $12,000 against Democratic rainmaker Thompson’s $1.65 million.

“It’s an exercise in futility,” said Brian Sobel, a Republican political consultant who ran unsuccessfully for the Assembly in 1994.

Republicans who could raise more money are dissuaded from a nine-month campaign that is almost certainly fruitless, he said.

Years of gerrymandering have established legislative districts that are mostly controlled by one party or the other here and throughout the state and nation, Sobel and McCuan said.

But there’s more to it than math.

Bev Hansen, a former Republican assemblywoman who represented part of Sonoma County for six years, described herself as a moderate who depended on Democratic crossover votes to get elected three times, starting in 1986.

“There are not many moderate Republicans in the Legislature now,” said Hansen, now a Sacramento lobbyist.

Her backstory as a former school board member and a single mother of five children helped her win office in a district with a majority of Democratic voters.

State politics are more polarized than they were in the 1980s, and Republicans are entrenched on three issues — taxes, regulation and the role of government — that don’t necessarily resonate on the North Coast, Hansen said.

“You’ve got to be delivering the message that matters to people,” she said.

On the North Coast, those would be jobs, education and the environment, she said. Democrats have “done a good job of talking about the issues that matter to Sonoma County,” Hansen said.

Told GOP registration in the county has declined from 34 percent in 1982 to 22 percent this year, Hansen said: “Holy, moly. That’s dramatic.”

Republican Don Sebastiani of Sonoma, who held a local Assembly seat for three terms in the 1980s, said an “ideological shift” to the left has compounded Republican woes on the North Coast.

Sebastiani, now a semi-retired wine industry executive, attributed his 1980 election in a Democrat-dominated district that included Vallejo to Ronald Reagan’s coattails.

But the Iraq War, Patriot Act and other policies of the George W. Bush administration from 2000 to 2008 soured North Coast voters, Sebastiani said, “I think to a certain point understandably.”

Voters also are growing less attached to party labels, he said, a trend reflected by the dramatic increase in independents, who now nearly match Republicans in North Coast voter registration.

The advent of the top-two primary, resulting in Democrat vs. Democrat elections, is “like the Soviet politburo,” Sebastiani said. “I like competition of ideas.”

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

22 Responses to “Fewer and fewer Republicans on North Coast”

  1. Chuck G says:

    Like I’ve said all along, the Republicans are leaders, the Democrats the followers

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  2. Follower says:

    Yeah, right… and 7.9% of Americans are unemployed!
    “Now tell me a love story”

    It’s easy to create whatever outcome you desire by structuring the question properly.

    “Republicans”? Sure, there are less of them. I know… I WAS one of them so I guess “I” count as “1 less Republican” in Kahlifoania.

    But make no mistake about it, there are “less Republicans” because the old guard is still in charge of the “Republican Party”.

    They made one last “hail mary” attempt to keep it that way with Mitt (what can I do to get you into this car today) Romney’s rules change at the Convention.
    But it won’t work.

    You don’t beat the Democrats by becoming more like them. You beat the Democrats by returning to true conservative principals and offering voters like me a choice.

    “Big Government” or “Bigger Government” isn’t a choice.

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  3. GAJ says:

    “Public employees can spike pensions by manipulating overtime, unused vacation and special compensation to inflate retirement payments. The practice was identified by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown as contributing to Calstrs’ unfunded liability of $64.5 billion as of June 2011. ”


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  4. Ricardo Sorentino says:

    RE: Sally Doyle – “When the 50% that don’t pay income tax, vote for prop. 30 to increase my taxes, that’s real democrat democracy.”

    Just like the presidential exit polling showed that 63% of the voters think that we should raise the tax rates on those that earn $250k a year. Of course they support it, since they don’t have to pay it but likely benefit from it.

    If the exit poll had said “Should we raise taxes on all people to 39%…” do you think that 63% of the people would have said ‘yes’? No way! People always like spending other peoples money, and getting something for nothing from other peoples money.

    And yet Obama and other liberals think this is ‘fair’.

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  5. RAW says:

    I wont MOCK the BIRD, but one poster here is an imposter. They talk about being in a union and then post misspoken fact, Obama type. I am sure they are not lies, Romney type. No government employee in CA can count overtime towards their pension. None of them can, I have done the taxes for several. Any old BIRD that says different is either not associated with a public paycheck, or misinformed and loves to spread the misinformation. But, hey, the BIRD is the word.

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  6. Steve Humphrey says:

    let’s be reasonable

    Not certain that the growth figure includes any children, but let’s cut the numbers in half and it is still a bit out of line don’t you think?

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  7. Sally Doyle says:

    When the 50% that don’t pay income tax, vote for prop. 30 to increase my taxes, that’s real democrat democracy.

    This California election just once again proves that there are more and more on the public dole, government employees or receiving government welfare and want somebody else to pay their way.

    The democrats play into this class warfare with what you have, I want philosophy. They can it “fairness.” What is fairness is a system that allows you to earn your way into a better life.

    That system is capitalism which the democrats have thrown overboard in favor of a socialist state where everybody is poor and just keeping the noises about water. This is Europe today and well on its way here in America and California.

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  8. Ricardo Sorentino says:

    RE: Snarky – “Well, the election is over and Obama has been RE-elected.”

    Here’s a great ‘thank-you note’ to all supporters of Obama.


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  9. Joe Blow says:

    “The candidate who is willing to bend most to their will gets elected.”

    You mean, like John Sawyer? Bought and paid for by public safety.

    Oh, yeah, and Los Angeles real estate developers. Can’t wait til we’re one big strip mall.

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  10. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @Steve – what percentage of that growth over the last 15 years is the result of new births…or do you expect the kids to pay taxes too!?

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  11. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Wow, Snarky, maybe we can turn you into a liberal after all.

    Really, Obama is a moderate, he is not a socialist. I would like him to be more left but knew when I voted for him both times he wasn’t leftwing. I want us out of the middle east too.

    And I agree with you on the safety unions. Those pensions wouldn’t be such a big deal if their perks and overtime weren’t pensionable AND THEY SHOULDN’T BE. Most government workers have high workloads that they have to try to accomplish in 40 hours per week. I WISH I could get overtime. I could so use it. And, wow, add those dollars to my pension so I can make more than I did working. You bet! But remember, Susan Gorin said NO to the safety unions. They had to take the same cuts as the rest of the city workers. Sawyer and Olivares said yes, yes, yes give them more and more. They bought their endorsement from a much more powerful group that SEIU in this county. SEIU is saying no county worker’s overtime should be pensionable and those managers shouldn’t be given that county paid deferred comp which is worth over $4M a year. And none of their perks should be pensionable. Add those and there is a big chunk of the county’s pothole money right there.

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  12. Steve Humphrey says:

    Here’s a few clues why California is no longer a swing state and votes Democrat. Over the last 15 plus years California’s population has grown from approximately
    25,000,000 to 35,000,000. Of the 10 million new residents we have added, only
    150,000 pay taxes. That’s correct,the Wall Street Journal reports 98 1/2% of our recent population growth does not pay taxes. A disproportionate portion of high income earners have also left the state. Hence, although we are now third from last in K-12 education (Mississippi and the District of Columbia are worse), we have been a magnet to welfare recipients from throughout the country and Mexico. It might strike you as bizarre, but several years ago a bill in our State Assembly was presented which would have allowed illegal immigrants the
    right to vote in state elections. It failed, for now.

    There are 2 interesting “opportunities” awaiting Californians. First, Prop 30 (passed today) calls for both an
    additional sales tax and higher taxes for the “rich”. Governor Brown and
    company have based their budget on its passing – without planning a viable
    option. Another milestone starts next week, conveniently planned to begin
    within seven days after the election. It’s our new “Cap and Trade” law. It
    will add additional tax to all those noxious polluters that manufacture
    products in our state IF it is deemed that they create “extra” carbon
    dioxide. This tax will become a treasure trove for the state’s special
    interest groups while driving more business out of California. Several
    years ago California passed “AB 32″ which authorized these provisions, plus
    additional hurdles to business creation. Interestingly, when AB 32 was
    passed business was expanding. Now with double digit unemployment, emissions
    are down. But guess what? The law will kick in anyway, even as we lose more
    jobs. It’s part of our “race to the bottom”.
    On January 1, 2014 California will lead the nation once again! This time with the California Health Benefits Exchange(?). It was ingeniously designed to wipe out the “private payer” system in
    California. Here’s how the takeover works. California now (2012 law)requires
    all private insurance companies operating in our state to cover all prior
    medical conditions – without being able to raise their premiums. The Federal
    government gave California $135,000,000 dollars this year to offset the
    state’s additional costs. Remember when President Obama said you can “keep
    your doctor”? Well, you’ll have to find him first. It is projected that on
    the day our Health Benefits Exchange starts, it will be the biggest
    provider of health care services in California. Just not necessarily the
    All of this courtesy of Californians choosing to be a blue state over and over. The Republican Party, or any other party for that matter, has just surrendered.

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  13. bulldozer says:

    Honestly, how many pieces of realtor-funded direct mail does it take to sour an independent voter on a reasonable candidate like Mr. Sawyer?

    We reached our fill about two weeks ago.

    Get a clue, GOP!

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  14. Snarky says:

    Well, the election is over and Obama has been RE-elected.

    All other issues aside, I hope he continues to de-fund the American war machine.

    With American combat troops all over the entire planet, literally, the military has way too much money at their disposal.


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  15. Western Cluebird says:

    What will happen when all the sane, productive people are driven from the
    My wealthy (inherited oil money-over 6 million worth) liberal friend voted for every feel good program and whack job liberal politician in Ca. based only on her “feelings” and their democrat label, then moved to Nevada (Incline village, of course) to avoid the high taxes in Ca.

    This is what liberals do. Ruin a state, then move to a new state to ruin it.

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  16. Snarky says:

    When government employees, like public safety types, are given a paycheck twice the amount of most private sector workers…

    … and given a public safety retirement at the early age of 50 which is 17 years before private sector workers can claim social security…


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  17. Snarky says:

    John Pendergast:

    Its so easy to mock posts like yours given that you post hate and not much more. No fact, no stats, just hate.

    The Democrat party in this state never made it through the 90′s. It’s a bunch of unemployed old men sitting in their trailers in “Fog Hat” shirts looking at their Medi-Cal accounts. They just keep muttering “Its Bush’s fault, Its Bush’s fault” over and over again.


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  18. Snarky says:

    SteveGuy :

    GOP numbers in the North Bay are falling.


    MAYBE… just maybe…. everyone quit the party because YOU were a member ?

    Just a thought ! LOL.

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  19. Steveguy says:

    Blah,blah, blah. I was Republican, then the religious righties ‘took over’.

    I am surprised that the moderate Democrats haven’t done the same yet.

    Sanity will prevail over these extremes, after the collapse. Alas.

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  20. John Pendergast says:

    The Republican party in this state never made it through the 90′s. It’s a bunch of retired old men sitting on the patio in Tommy Bahama shirts looking at their Vanguard accounts. They just keep muttering Obamacare Obamacare over and over again.

    They worship Tom McClintock, who’s the biggest has-been (if ever been) in California politics.

    One day a Republican will come along in this state who’s completely out of the box, and not a baby boomer. Maybe some libertine gay guy from the Castro who’s just fed up with his taxes and the homeless squatters. The party will become way more liberal on social issues and weed legalization. I think it would recover fast and become a huge force again.

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  21. Lets be Reasonable says:

    Couldn’t tell it from the comments on this blog…

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  22. GAJ says:

    As you can see, Union support has had no affect on North Bay politics.

    The candidate who is willing to bend most to their will gets elected.

    Simple really.

    Thumb up 16 Thumb down 7

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