WatchSonoma Watch

Former Obama appointee enters Sonoma County supervisor’s race


James Gore, a Sonoma County native whose family is in the wine industry and who returned to the area this year after leaving a senior post in the Obama administration, is jumping into the open race for the north county supervisor’s seat.

Though well-versed in government from his seven years in Washington, D.C., including three years working in the Department of Agriculture under President Obama, Gore, 35, is making his first bid for public office. He announced his candidacy to succeed Mike McGuire for the $134,000 county supervisor’s job Wednesday.

James Gore, a former Obama administration appointee in the Department of Agriculture, has entered the race for Mike McGuire's seat on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. (James Gore / PD)

James Gore, a former Obama administration appointee in the Department of Agriculture, has entered the race for Mike McGuire’s seat on
the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. (James Gore / PD)

Gore faces the extra hurdle of running as a relative unknown. But he called himself “a proud public servant” and said he sees “fresh perspective” as an advantage in the race. He intends to build name recognition and earn support through a “tireless” door-to-door campaign, he said.

“I see it as being on the ground, full-court press, meeting every resident I can in the district, earning every inch,” he said. “That’s the only way I’ve approached anything in life and that’s the way I’m going to approach this.”

Gore now lives outside Healdsburg with his wife Elizabeth and their two-year-old daughter. He was raised in Cloverdale and Santa Rosa and graduated in 1996 from Montgomery High School. He has an undergraduate degree in agriculture from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and a masters in political management from George Washington University.

His opponents in the contest for the open 4th District seat so far include two political veterans, foremost among them longtime Windsor Councilwoman Deb Fudge, who last month announced her third attempt to claim the north county seat.

The other two declared candidates are former Healdsburg Mayor Pete Foppiano, who lost a previous bid for supervisor in 1994, and Keith Rhinehart, a former UPS supervisor and part-time teacher.

Gore, who returned from Washington after leaving the federal job in May, was widely reported to be making the rounds among political insiders and others after McGuire announced in mid-October that he would run instead for the open state Senate seat representing the North Coast.

Gore said he doesn’t see the supervisor’s seat as a launching pad to higher office. “I came back to be in Sonoma County, not to be in D.C. and not to be in Sacramento,” he said.

His avowed “passion” for environmental conservation and roots in agriculture — his father was a founding partner in Vyborny Vineyard Management and his family owns a 30-acre vineyard outside of Cloverdale — could shake up the county’s traditional political fault lines. Fudge also claims strong environmental credentials. The growing field also could splinter support and funding from business and labor groups.

Candidates will need to have a solid base to survive the June primary and crossover appeal to win the seat outright, said David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist.

“You can’t win that race just being the environmental or pro-business candidate,” he said.

After college, Gore followed in his father’s steps by joining the Peace Corps. He served in a remote region of southern Bolivia.

He later worked for a Washington-based consulting and lobbying firm, representing the California wine industry on international affairs and trade.

He joined the Obama administration in mid-2010 and served most recently as assistant chief in the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, which specializes in environmental protection involving private landowners.

Gore oversaw some of those efforts as well as an initiative to combat rural poverty. He also helped funnel federal money to aid West Coast salmon recovery, including about $2 million to North Coast streams, the Russian River among them.

He said his experience in Washington — perhaps a black mark for some — would help in steering federal and state assistance to Sonoma County.

“I’ve had a good opportunity to run in a lot of different places and do a lot of different work,” he said. “As much as I know my way around, I know how to get it done.”

The north county district stretches from northwest Santa Rosa to the Mendocino County line, taking in the unincorporated Larkfield/Wikiup area, Geyserville and the cities of Windsor, Healdsburg and Cloverdale.

Gore said his campaign would emphasize health services, education, environmental protection and other core government programs.

“You’re talking about roads. You’re talking about water for people. You’re talking about law enforcement. Those issues are going to be prime time in my mind because it’s the nuts and bolts of what a county supervisor does.”

He shied away from stating his stance on a number of hot-button county proposals, including fluoridation of drinking water, union rules and benefits for large county construction projects and protective setbacks to limit development and farming along more than 3,200 miles of streams.

The latter two issues have become litmus tests for influential labor, environmental and farming groups. Gore is seeking their endorsement but said that he remains undecided on the issues at this point.

“To me, it’s not responsible to take a position at the beginning of a campaign before I talk with the residents to see what they want,” he said. “That’s what every candidate should do, and that’s the way I’ll approach it.”

12 Responses to “Former Obama appointee enters Sonoma County supervisor’s race”

  1. Jason Hernandez says:

    This man is a globalist. His wife is a ‘marketer’ fundraiser for the UN and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
    What are these people doing here besides getting a major foothold in California politics?
    An obvious lie that he’ll stay here in Sonoma County. The plan is to move on to bigger things—that’s clear.
    With a green shiny face you can fool a lot of people in Sonoma County. Just because he’s a new face doesn’t mean he’s electable.
    We are in the end game now; no place for jokers who think this is business as usual—and that’s a term they use to try to shame us when we ask these questions.


    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  2. Gore has UN connection says:

    What the reporter missed was this candidate has a wife who works for the united nations. Could be an important fact.

    Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  3. Grapevines says:

    Just what we need. Another professional politician trying to continue to dine at the public troth.

    What do you want to bet that he comes out in favor of public employees, welfare benefits, immigration, and newer iPads for all the BOS(tupidvisors)

    Thumb up 11 Thumb down 11

  4. James Bennett says:

    Where does James Gore stand?

    Where do you stand?

    Are you watching, or standing?

    I have stood, paid a huge financial price through the City’s vindictive retribution in my real estate interests.

    I would do it again.

    I often think of an example:
    If once in a lifetime you’re driving in the country and come across a horrible accident.
    A car is turned over, you can hear passengers moaning.
    You smell gas.
    You might have to put yourself at risk to help.

    Do you:
    a) Drive on.
    b) Call 911 and watch.
    c) Try to get everyone our; help them.

    If you help, but one of the passengers doesn’t make it…did you do the wrong thing?


    The important, divine thing is that you TRY.

    THAT is where we are at friends.

    Time to engage, even if you pay a price.

    Because if we don’t, we are likely screwed anyway.

    Besides, trying holds some dignity.
    Being duped and incrementally reduced to serfs does not.

    I’m happy to see some of these questions.

    As a community, we have to INSIST on answers to those questions, and not be placated with political rhetoric.

    Thumb up 16 Thumb down 6

  5. Arthur Diamond says:

    Another hack from the Obama administration. Sonoma County does not need him. We already have enough problems with the local economy, jobs, high taxes and outrageous government pensions.

    Thumb up 13 Thumb down 13

  6. Where does James Gore stand on unelected agencies? says:

    A lot of people do care about regional unelected agencies so it would be good to know if there is any difference between the candidates on this. What say you James Gore? Do you support One Bay Area? MTC? ABAG? Regional government in general? Why or why not?

    Thumb up 17 Thumb down 3

  7. Who Is this Guy Really ??? Right You Are says:

    Whoever the wise one is who posted the “Who Is This Guy Really?” below nailed it.

    The “Bosco Boys” include Bosco and Koenigshofer and they are the ones who line up and recruit candidates for supervisor…just like Gore. Mr. Gore should disclose that.

    And generally a lack of experience in dealing with developers and development issues is a problem for candidates in this County.

    Thumb up 17 Thumb down 7

  8. Rebel with a cause says:

    Great, another carpetbagger fleeing the obummer admin.The most lied about admin. in U.S.history ! something sonoma county does not need.

    Thumb up 13 Thumb down 16

  9. Who is this guy, really? says:

    Nooooo! not another poll-driven ambiguous candidate.

    If he’s got any real values, he’d tell us what he really thinks should be going on as a Sonoma County supervisor, not waiting to find out how to collect the most votes and money by tailoring his p.r. machine to them.

    Who’s money is behind him? Bosco? Koenigshofer? Herb Williams? Grape industry?

    His fresh face ain’t worth a damn if he ain’t got a heart and a tongue.

    Thumb up 19 Thumb down 9

  10. Steveguy says:

    One thing is for certain, I will not vote for Fudge and will actively work against her.

    Maybe losing for a 3rd time will give her a clue. She won’t represent us anyway, she represents ABAG, Plan Bay Area ,the MTC and all of the other UN-ELECTED Agencies.

    Without even knowing about James Gore, he can’t be worse than her.

    Thumb up 16 Thumb down 9

  11. James Bennett says:

    Obama appointee in Dept. of Ag.?

    Part of the biggest assault on American ag in history?

    Sonoma Co. ag folks should be very concerned.

    Thumb up 21 Thumb down 17

  12. PapaESoCo says:

    Hmmm, a fresh face in the race. Seems like a good thing, to me. His credentials are good; although, time in DC will count against him. Certainly is long past time for a change on the BOS; and time for a change from the same tiresome candidates(Fudge, et all).

    Thumb up 23 Thumb down 17

Leave a Reply