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Mike McGuire, Erin Carlstrom to vie for Noreen Evans’ Senate seat


Mike McGuire is preparing to walk away from his job as a Sonoma County supervisor and run for the state Legislature, a move that would trigger a political shake-up in the north county.

Freshman Santa Rosa City Councilwoman Erin Carlstrom beat him to the starting line Tuesday, announcing her entrance into the race to succeed North Coast state Sen. Noreen Evans.

Mike McGuire, left, is preparing to walk away from his job as a Sonoma County supervisor to run for the state Senate, while freshman Santa Rosa City Councilwoman Erin Carlstrom, right, jumped into the race Tuesday.

Mike McGuire, left, is preparing to walk away from his job as a Sonoma County supervisor to run for the state Senate, while freshman Santa Rosa City Councilwoman Erin Carlstrom, right, jumped into the race Tuesday.

McGuire, who declined to confirm his plans, has notified supporters that he intends to run for the 2nd District seat that Evans will vacate next year.

The moves are a jolt to the state Senate race, which had already attracted two candidates from opposite ends of the sprawling district, stretching from the Golden Gate to the Oregon border.

McGuire, 34, a former Healdsburg mayor and school board member, would be an immediate frontrunner in the current field, some political observers said. They cited his name recognition, support among a cross section of political camps and substantial campaign coffers.

“He has the ability to leap in and really make a splash,” said Sonoma State University political scientist David McCuan.

Several people notified of McGuire’s decision last week said they expected an announcement soon on his bid for the Senate seat.

“That’s the word I got,” said Herman Hernandez, a Guerneville real estate broker who said he’d been told of McGuire’s plans by Jason Liles, one of the supervisor’s main political advisors and his appointee to the county Planning Commission.

In an interview, McGuire said only that he was “having conversations with supporters and folks throughout the (Senate) district about this issue.”

“I will make an announcement at the appropriate time,” he said.

McGuire’s first term representing the north county ends next year. If he runs for the Legislature, it would open up a seat on the Board of Supervisors in the June primary, unsettling a race that once seemed predictable with an incumbent on a clear path to reelection.

Carlstrom’s situation is different. Unlike McGuire, she can run for higher office without risk of losing her current seat on the Santa Rosa council, which is up for election in 2016.

A 30-year-old attorney who has been in city office less than a year, Carlstrom had previously said she was considering a run. She made it official two weeks ago, filing paperwork with the California Secretary of State, but did not announce her candidacy until Tuesday afternoon after McGuire’s reported plans became public.

The timing appeared to be an attempt to stake out a space for her campaign in a growing field. It strongly linked the birth of her first child Saturday to her interest in running for the Senate seat.

“Now, more than ever, I understand the full meaning of public service,” Carlstrom said in a written statement released by her campaign. “I always knew that my advocacy and votes impacted future generations, but looking at my son, that knowledge is now personal.”

Natalie LeBlanc, an advisor with the Oakland-based consultancy managing Carlstrom’s campaign, said the timing of the announcement was meant to allow Carlstrom “some quiet time with her baby.”

Carlstrom is currently on maternity leave from the Santa Rosa council and LeBlanc said she would not be available for an interview. Her statement said she plans to return to public duties Nov. 5 and hold a campaign kick-off Nov. 13.

McGuire and Carlstrom would join two other candidates who have announced their bids for the North Coast seat: Chris Lehman, a 36-year-old Arcata resident and longtime state Senate staffer, and Eric Lucan, 32, who was elected to the Novato City Council in 2011.

All four are Democrats.

Potential Republican challengers include Lawrence Weisner, a Santa Rosa resident who ran against Evans in her successful bid for the seat in 2010.

Evans, a Santa Rosa Democrat and former state Assembly member, announced in August that she would not seek reelection next year.

Under redistricting, the 2nd District includes all of Marin, Mendocino, Lake, Humboldt, Trinity and Del Norte counties. In Sonoma County, it takes in Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Windsor, Healdsburg, Geyserville and Cloverdale.

Voter registration in the district is heavily Democratic. The majority of its more than 1 million residents are centered in the more urbanized south, including Sonoma and Marin counties.

McGuire, a Healdsburg High and Sonoma State graduate and former marketing director at KFTY-TV50, dominated his 2010 race for the north county supervisor’s seat, beating out his opponent, Windsor Town Councilwoman Debora Fudge, by more than 20 percentage points.

He has since consolidated support among her backers, including environmental groups, and added to his network in organized labor, agriculture and business circles.

When he kicked off his reelection campaign for supervisor in August, McGuire said he had already raised $160,000. The funds could be transferred to his Senate campaign under state rules governing such moves.

Some of his chief donors have known for months about his interest in the Senate seat.

“I would be very excited to have a strong advocate for working people in the race,” Lisa Maldonado, executive director of the North Bay Labor Council, said of McGuire. “I’m pretty optimistic that he’s going to announce soon.”

McCuan, the Sonoma State political scientist, said McGuire’s interest could complicate the race for other contenders, making it more difficult for them to raise funds and secure key endorsements.

“What’s interesting to me is he’s a very cautious political guy, and this is a bit of a leap,” McCuan said. “But he immediately becomes a favorite if he enters the race.”

Carlstrom, in contrast, could represent a potential “wild-card” entry, McCuan said, though she could see a boost for being the only woman so far in the race.

“She’s new to the (Santa Rosa) council, new to the (Senate) district and unknown to a large swath of voters,” he said. “She’s going to be spending a lot of time introducing herself.”

But Herb Williams, a Santa Rosa political consultant who has emerged as a fan of Carlstrom, said he didn’t see her relative lack of political experience as a handicap. He called her a “consensus builder” on the Santa Rosa council, where she has maneuvered between two opposing camps, one supported by business and development interests and the other backed by environmental and neighborhood groups.

“I don’t think political experience is the answer. It’s not the bellwether. It’s what kind of person you are,” Williams said. “She’s a breath of fresh air as far as I’m concerned.”

12 Responses to “Mike McGuire, Erin Carlstrom to vie for Noreen Evans’ Senate seat”

  1. Emerson Burkett says:

    Hmm, Mike has at least served in Healdsburg as well as the BOS, though, I do not see anything outstanding in his service. And am not happy with any of the BOS who have supported Sonoma Greed Power. As for Erin, sorry, she is still “wet behind the ears”, needs more experience. Also, she has not shown anything in her short time on the Council.

  2. Tired of It says:

    Just what we need in Sacramento, one of these big spenders delivering more of the socialist dogma and spending habits of left. I guess all it takes is a smile and a firm handshake.

    Just keep your hands out of my pockets.

  3. MOCKINBIRD says:

    Irene, the state isn’t broke, it has a surplus and so does the county. I think that’s because the obstructionism by the minority Republicans no longer exists. The fair redistricting that was done out of legislators hands, at least in this state, was a very good thing.

  4. homegirl says:

    Many thanks to “observer” for laying it out for all to see.

  5. Big Fish says:

    @ Observer

    “Somebody who has the temerity to stand up publicly and assert the idea of government of the people, by the people and for the people.”

    Very nice thought but doesn’t exist especially in Sonoma County. Mike is a nice guy and could have a good chance of winning but he would be leaving his constituents in the dumper. I believe he quite conservative in his personal life but is a puppet like all the rest of the liberal left. He could be a good leader but he’s only a store bought politican. On the national side at least Ted Cruz is willing to say he is a cheap suit.

  6. Erin Carlstrom's 2013 Record says:


    GOLIS: Santa Rosa council had a bad, bad week
    June 2nd, 2013

    The lawyers were busy last week with the usual back and forth about whether the Santa Rosa City Council broke the law by failing to disclose a $327,000 embarrassment.

    Even if the city’s legal defense involves more semantics than substance, City Hall likely doesn’t mind a controversy focused on what the state’s open meeting law does or doesn’t require. People tend to nod off when the conversation wanders into the arcane language of government. Plus, the blah-blah-blah serves to distract us from more fundamental questions, such as:

    How did the City Council manage to fritter away $327,000? (Fritter is not the first word that came to mind, but you know what I mean.)

    Let’s take away the obfuscation and review what happened here:

    In 2008, the then-Santa Rosa City Council enacted a tax surcharge that was a lawsuit waiting to happen. It didn’t take a constitutional lawyer to figure out this assessment on future residents was floated on a wish and a prayer — as judges in two courts would later affirm. A year earlier, the council rejected the same proposal, noting it would create “two classes of citizens.” (This was the same time the cash-strapped city was talking about charging for paramedic calls for homeowners who didn’t volunteer to pay a monthly fee.)

    Having lost in court — twice — the council met in private earlier this year and instructed its lawyer to complete the paperwork and pay court-ordered legal fees to the lawyers who successfully sued the city.

    The council did not disclose the payment — for reasons all of us can understand. The council had screwed up; the outcome was embarrassing.

    Along the way, City Attorney Caroline Fowler tried to persuade us the council didn’t make a decision when it made a decision.

    Or, as Humpty Dumpty said, “When I use a word … it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

    A Press Democrat editorial aptly described the city’s imaginative etymology as “the nonsense of the city’s games and word parsing.”

    Yes, government will, from time to time, dance around its responsibilities to make full disclosure. Sometimes, the obligations prescribed by law are judged to be inconvenient. It’s such a bother to keep the public informed.

    Other times, the obligation requires disclosures that government would rather keep to itself. To choose an example at random: How about the loss of $327,000?

    It remains that government is not a disinterested party when it comes to interpreting its responsibilities under the law — and its responsibilities to the governed. This is true in Washington, it is true in Sacramento, and it is true in Santa Rosa, California.

    This episode also reminds us that elected officials try hard to be invisible when embarrassments come along. Fowler did all the talking, as if she were the only person in the room when the city decided it was saddled with a lost cause.

    But Fowler didn’t make these decisions; the City Council did; and the City Council should be accountable for them.

    In case you forgot their names, here are the current members of the Santa Rosa City Council: Mayor Scott Bartley, Vice Mayor Erin Carlstrom, Julie Combs, Ernesto Olivares, Jake Ours, Robin Swinth and Gary Wysocky. (Politicians love to get their names in the paper.)

    For folks who value good government, it’s important to note that Santa Rosans only know about this waste of public funds because this hometown newspaper and Staff Writer Kevin McCallum were doing their jobs.

    The problem is, there are fewer Kevin McCallums around to keep an eye on government for us.

    In its annual survey of the news media, the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism reported the resources available to newspaper and TV newsrooms have declined by 30 percent since 2000.

    By all accounts, the Capitol press corps in Sacramento is less than half as large as it was a decade ago. That means fewer than three dozen reporters to cover a government that employes 193,000 people and spends $98 billion a year on behalf of 38 million Californians.

    It’s an old story by now. A revolution in technology, in combination with an economic recession, has news organizations scrambling to redesign their business models.

    Having worked 40-some years as a news guy, I can’t pretend to be an innocent bystander. But if you value this kind of watchdog journalism, you need to find ways to support it.

    Whether it’s a White House with a penchant for secrecy, a state Legislature that seems less accountable with each passing year, or a city government that forgets to mention a misadventure that costs taxpayers $327,000, stuff happens.

    For all the good intentions people bring to public service, government agencies will find ways to rationalize their desire for secrecy.

    Meanwhile, we know what will happen if government comes to believe it can act without fear of being held accountable. We will be stuck with a government that is less competent and a society that is less democratic.

    Pete Golis is a columnist for The Press Democrat. Email him at golispd@gmail.com.

  7. Irene Tavenner says:

    What this state senate district needs is a fresh point of view, not the old worn out leftist, socialism the district has been sending to Sacramento.

    Ever wonder why California is broke and state and local government is broken? Try a few decades of democrat rule and you will find the answer. Giant giveaways, political corruption at all levels, politicians who serve themselves and not the voters and no government accountable.

    It is an evil brew and is only getting worse. Sacramento needs political reformers, not politicians who go along to get along.

    The two candidates mentioned in the article do not fit the bill. They don’t have that old “gravitas” the democrats used to talk about.

  8. Steveguy says:

    Looks like it is his. Can’t do much worse than Noreen.

    Like Observer said, maybe we can get some critical thinking on the BOS. Rabbitt has shown to be the only one not going lockstep with ” The Plan”.

    If you are not bought and paid for around here, never mind. I fear that Fudge will try, she is one of ‘them’ groomed and prepared to walk in lockstep.

    I am in the District

  9. Juan Lock says:

    The fact that Carlstrom thinks she would be able to effectively serve both her family and the constituents of one of the largest districts in the state speaks volumes about her decision making process. I’d like to see her complete at least one term on the city council before deciding to move up to the big leagues, and even then, I doubt she would be ready.

  10. Supervisor Mike McGuire isn’t “walking away.” If he enters the race, he is running for a higher office, which coincides with the end of his term as 4th District Spvr. Already the P.D. is FOR Carlstrom? Erin is the one “walking away” from a four-year commitment. A “fresh face?” That’s some great spin, Herb Williams. Be careful Press, your owners’ wallets are showing…

  11. observer says:

    What an opportunity to do some good.

    Elect a new Supervisor whose mission is public service.

    The County of Sonoma is one of the most corrupt in the state.

    The Board of Supervisors, County Counsel, Auditor Controller and the folks who run the Water Agency are animatronic creatures controlled by a handful of local moguls and election-influencers whose agenda(s) bear no discernible connection to the public good.

    Witness the band aids placed over the arterial wounds of roads and pensions. Witness the new Ponzi scheme of Sonoma Clean Power.

    All it takes is one honest Supervisor at the weekly charade of the Board of Supervisors meeting to start asking questions like:

    1) Can anyone tell me what happened to that $60 million we spent on Sonoma County Energy Independence instead of on roads?

    2) Can anyone explain to me why there was no Board inquiry into the $95,000 bribe the Water Agency paid to a Santa Rosa Planning Commissioner in 2010?

    3) Can anyone tell me why the Water Agency made a $115,000 payoff to an associate of that Planning Commissioner (now x-Assemblyman) in 2011 and 2012?

    4) Can anyone tell me why the Water Agency lied, in writing—with the complicity of County Counsel—to fabricate a legal contract that didn’t exist, in order to justify withholding the financial projections of Sonoma Clean Power?

    5) Can anyone explain to me why County Counsel advised the Board of Supervisors to disregard legitimate public inquiry about the County’s failure to get statutorily mandated review of our pension obligations?

    6) Can anyone tell me why we allow huge contractors to buy Supervisor votes with campaign contributions?

    We don’t need a lawyer, engineer or accountant on the Board of Supervisors.

    We just need somebody—uniquely in the leadership of Sonoma County government—who hasn’t been bought.

    Maybe somebody with kids. Somebody who thinks Sonoma County is a place of extraordinary beauty and unlimited potential as a place to raise a family.

    Somebody who has the temerity to stand up publicly and assert the idea of government of the people, by the people and for the people.

  12. Elephant says:

    “But Herb Williams, a Santa Rosa political consultant who has emerged as a fan of Carlstrom, said he didn’t see her relative lack of political experience as a handicap.”

    Translation “she would be a good puppet for us”.

    If that quote by Mr. Williams doesn’t concern you, then you’re not paying attention.

    McGuire has a good shot at this, but he really hasn’t stood out as anything special on the BoS. It will be very interesting to see who runs for his current position. Fudge probably will run but she has lost support over her part of the DUMB train debacle.