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Sonoma mayor Sanders to join supervisorial race

Thursday, February 16th, 2012 | Posted by

The race to fill the open 1st District Sonoma County supervisor’s seat got a major shake-up Wednesday with the news that Sonoma Mayor Joanne Sanders plans to enter the contest.

Joanne Sanders

Sanders, who founded the Sonoma-based employment agency Bolt Staffing Service, said she likes her chances in the field, which already includes five contenders.

“I just don’t see anyone who has my vision for the county,” she said.

Now in the last year of her second term on the Sonoma council and in her second one-year post as mayor, Sanders, 44, said her concerns about the demise of redevelopment projects and the county’s fiscal problems prompted her decision.

She said “complexity” will require the replacement for retiring Supervisor Valerie Brown to “hit the ground running.”

“The stakes are very high. We’ve got to have someone representing Sonoma who has experience with the issues here,” she said.

Sanders’ move, a month before the March 14 filing deadline, is likely to be a major factor in the race, political observers said.

She becomes the third Sonoma Valley-based candidate, alongside Mark Bramfitt and Gina Cuclis.

Any candidate looking to prevail on support from valley-based voters will have to contend with that fact, said David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist.

“You’re slicing and dicing that valley vote pretty thinly,” he said.

Also, Sanders is seen as a pro-business politician — she was a registered Republican before switching to the Democratic party to contend in the 2010 state Senate 2nd District race won by Noreen Evans.

Santa Rosa Councilman John Sawyer, who until now was seen as the most likely candidate for business and agricultural interests, may now face more competition for endorsements and campaign cash, McCuan said.

He said the resulting edge could go to Santa Rosa Councilwoman Susan Gorin, seen as Sawyer’s chief rival for the district’s Santa Rosa-area voters

“I would imagine that she (Sanders) draws support away from Sawyer,” McCuan said. “Gorin could benefit in that regard.”

The other candidate in the race, Keith Rhinehart, is also Santa Rosa-based.

Above all, Sanders’ entry almost “guarantees a runoff if it wasn’t guaranteed before,” McCuan said.

The other five candidates have a headstart on the June primary. Most kicked off their fundraising efforts last month, and some high-profile endorsements have already been handed out.

Sanders also missed participating in the first candidate’s forum in the race Wednesday, though she was in the audience.

But the Sonoma mayor stressed that her seven-year voting record and name recognition should help her catch up.

“I’m perfectly on time,” she said. “I don’t feel disadvantaged by it at all.”

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

Writer Spotlight

Dianne Reber Hart is our Sonoma correspondent.

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