WatchSonoma Watch

Spending in race between Susan Gorin, John Sawyer most expensive in Sonoma County history


Spending by outside groups made last year’s race between Susan Gorin and John Sawyer for the 1st District Sonoma County supervisor’s seat the most expensive in county history, campaign finance reports show.

Gorin, Sawyer and outside groups reported spending $826,400, topping by $1,600 the 2010 mark set in the 2nd District supervisor’s race between rivals David Rabbitt and Pam Torliatt.

Susan Gorin, John Sawyer.

Susan Gorin, John Sawyer.

The new record marks the third time in four years that a higher spending level has been set in a county race. The trend has played out during a generational turnover on the Board of Supervisors.

The high stakes battles for those open seats are increasingly being waged by outside groups, which operate under far fewer campaign finance restraints than candidates.

Around the state, the number of independent campaigns operating in county races has multiplied as elected officials leave term-limited higher office or lower paying city seats for county office, experts say.

“The county supervisor gig is the best political job in California,” said David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist. “That’s going to drive dollars to both the candidates and the outside groups.”

Another contributing factor is the quick rise in the county’s maximum direct contribution to candidates. It has more than doubled since 2008, to a limit last year of $2,625 in any period, or $5,250 after independent spending reached $10,000.

Expenditures by outside groups accounted for about $219,000 of the spending in the Gorin-Sawyer race, featuring two longtime rivals on the Santa Rosa City Council.

Groups favoring Sawyer were financed primarily by real estate and business interests. They spent $142,000, mostly on advertising, according to campaign records released last week.

A coalition backing Gorin and supported primarily by the county’s largest public employee labor union reported spending $77,000 on the race.

Gorin won despite Sawyer’s greater campaign contributions and the deeper pockets of his independent supporters. Together the two candidates spent more than $607,000; Gorin’s share was about $280,000. The figures include campaign activity in 2011 and 2012.

Like many politicians, Gorin and Sawyer said they would have rather contested the race without the influence of independent expenditures. Both cast doubt on the groups’ ability to sway voters.

“A lot of people tend to tune out the robocalls and the mailers,” Gorin said Friday.

But independent campaigns appear here to stay, and local politicians and their outside backers will be more aggressive in fundraising as a result, experts said.

“The saturation effect of money has gone up for all these groups,” said McCuan, the SSU political scientist.

The Gorin-Sawyer race did not eclipse county records for direct campaign contributions and spending, set by Rabbitt and Torliatt in their supervisorial race. Together, the two Petaluma city councilmembers raised more than $706,000 and spent nearly $700,000.

Torliatt, Petaluma’s mayor at the time and an 18-year veteran of city politics, led the money contest. But Rabbitt, a single-term councilman, won the county seat.

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

5 Responses to “Spending in race between Susan Gorin, John Sawyer most expensive in Sonoma County history”

  1. James Bennett says:

    Concerned was misspelled. On the third line. Thnx.

  2. James Bennett says:

    “Eric Newman”:
    Susan Gorin is a middle of the road politician?
    The same Susan that tells a conserned fluoride coalition that;
    “she doesn’t need to read any more scientific proof about fluoride because her mind is made up”?
    The same Susan who sits redundantly on boards with NGOs promoting all that is UN Agenda 21 implementation?
    Being on the ABAG executive board alone could cause a recall effort later this year.
    If this is middle of the road…
    we’re on the wrong road.

  3. Eric Newman says:

    When will the craziness stop? Susan Gorin is a middle of the road politician for Northern California. She has spoken proudly of her service on regional bodies. There’s nothing to hide there. Her moderate League of Women’s Voters political style is no threat to anyone’s liberties. This guy Bennett needs to breathe into a paper bag until his panic attack subsides. Oh, and stay off the internet until you get a grip.

  4. James Bennett says:

    The price for well meaning Sonoma County citizens promoting this soft spoken Progressive will be measured in much more than dollars. The price could be our freedoms.

    As a more than devout change agent for the globalist Agenda implemented through NGOs like ABAG (she’s on the Executive Committee), ICLEI who’s documented purpose is to implement UN Agenda 21 on a local level, Sonoma Co. Water Agency she has made herself a central figure in our oppression.

    Once you know about One Bay Area and it’s ramifications. It’s hard for me to imagine a well meaning public official keeping this from their constituents. If I was a public servant I would be doing everything I could to notify the people. If I owned the PD it would be on the frontpage more than once.

    Hell, I’m just a citizen and I feel compelled to do so.

    If you enjoy the country, rural life, single family home life, small business, the freedom that an automobile brings, your privacy, gardening, etc., etc.; you need to know about the One Bay Area plan.


    Take the time to read about it.

  5. The Hammer says:

    It’s all about the bucks isn’t it?