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    Fundraising for 5th District Supervisor--PD article

    Lynda Hopkins edges Noreen Evans in campaign contributions for 5th District Sonoma County supervisor

    Noreen Evans and Lynda Hopkins, two leading candidates in the highly watched race to succeed Efren Carrillo on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, are neck-and-neck in fundraising, amassing more than $100,000 each since the beginning of the year, according to the latest campaign finance reports.

    Hopkins, an organic farmer who has never held elected office, raised $117,763 from Jan. 1 through the period ending April 23.

    Evans, an attorney and former state legislator, raised $111,615 over the same period, campaign finance reports show.

    The slight edge held by Hopkins is noteworthy, according to David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist.

    “The fact that this young person who is new to politics has outraised the more experienced candidate represents a huge shift in this race,” McCuan said. “It shows that she’s willing to take lots of different money to make a splash. She’s out there hustling, and all this money is helping introduce herself to people.”

    Altogether, Hopkins has raised $138,012 since she entered the race in November. About $20,000 of that money came in the first month of the campaign, before Evans formally entered the race in January. Some of Hopkins’ largest contributions have come from winery executives, the real estate industry and construction groups, while Evans has received major support from labor unions and environmentalists.

    The other candidates in the race to represent the county’s 5th District, stretching from west Santa Rosa, to Bodega Bay and north to Mendocino County, include Tim Sergent, a special education teacher in Santa Rosa; Tom Lynch, Carrillo’s appointee to the planning commission; and Marion Chase, a county social services worker.

    Sergent has raised $10,407 and Lynch has raised $1,670, according to campaign finance reports. Chase said she raised $100.

    So far, total expenditures in the race have hit $187,000. Hopkins has spent $87,946 and accrued $10,130 in debt, while Evans has spent $89,334.

    The figures, which constitute the first full of campaign finance reports released this year, come amid an intensifying debate among the candidates, and in the public, about the influence of special interests in the race.
    Evans has publicly criticized Hopkins over the groups and individuals contributing to her campaign, and moderators at recent candidates forums have questioned candidates about contributions from interest groups.

    “How do you propose to deal with the pressure to produce votes for the real estate, vintners and business groups that are heavily funding you,” the moderator at a recent Bodega Bay forum asked Hopkins.
    Hopkins responded first by touting the number of small donations she has received.

    “I have built a truly grassroots, ground-up campaign. I try to disassociate myself from money as much as possible,” she told a crowd of about 200 people April 22 at the Bodega Bay Grange. She told of a donation from a woman who handed her a check with a stack of photos of homeless people in Guerneville.

    “She saved up $500 to give it to me on my birthday …and said ‘I want you to not forget this when you’re elected,’ ” Hopkins said. “It brought tears to my eyes. … That $500 check is the only check I have received that has meant something to me.”

    She summed up her answer, saying “There is no quid pro quo.”

    Evans followed up on that interchange to repeat a message she has emphasized on the campaign trail.
    “I would really urge everybody before you vote to take a look at who is supporting the candidates,” Evans said to the crowd. “Perhaps Ms. Hopkins doesn’t know this because she’s distancing herself from money, but her campaign got $10,000 from the construction and development industry yesterday alone.”

    Evans, however, has defended herself against similar criticism about the influence of organized labor and other major backers of her campaign.

    “These are working people and those who are fighting to preserve our county and our way of life,” Evans said in an interview. “Fifth District voters are understandably concerned about the outsized influence of the wine industry, developers and real estate interests on this county. Discounting that displays a lack of understanding about the history of this county, and the struggle between those who would preserve it and those who would develop it.”

    Hopkins said she disagrees, and has sought to downplay on the campaign trail the effect of traditional political rifts on the county going forward.

    “I have a broad array of support,” she said in an interview. “I think that the whole idea that money buys influence is a false argument. I want to truly listen to everybody.”

    The issue erupted again between the two front-runners at a forum last week.

    “I’d like to clear up a couple of things,” Hopkins said in her opening statement. “Number one: I don’t have handlers. And number two: I’m not being groomed for anything. … Dogs are groomed, dogs have handlers.”
    The question is likely to shadow Hopkins and Evans through the remainder of the primary and into November runoff unless one wins the seat outright in June.

    “Money is influential,” said McCuan, the SSU political scientist. “It doesn’t buy votes, but it does communicate how candidates feel about certain issues. Those stances could steer the vote and the direction on major issues the Board of Supervisors takes on.”

    Evans, for her part, has endorsements from the Sierra Club and Sonoma County Conservation Action, the county’s largest environmental advocacy organization. She has large donations from the county’s Democratic Party, Service Employees International Union Local 1021 — representing more than half the county’s 4,100-member workforce — and Guy Conner, husband of the late state Sen. Pat Wiggins, who Evans succeeded in office.

    Others who have contributed to Evans’ campaign include Ernie Carpenter, former west county supervisor who sought to oust Carrillo in 2012, Jane Nielson, a local environmental activist, and Teri Shore, executive director of the Greenbelt Alliance.

    Evans has also received financial support from local elected officials, including Supervisor Susan Gorin, Santa Rosa Councilwoman Julie Combs, Rohnert Park Councilman Jake Mackenzie and Sebastopol Councilman Robert Jacob.

    “Noreen Evans has been a strong supporter of labor and working class issues,” said Omar Medina, chairman of the political fundraising arm of SEIU Local 1021. “She has a long history of standing up for working class people, and we need someone with her experience to help deal with this power struggle that we’re seeing in the county.”

    Hopkins has endorsements from the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, the Sonoma County Alliance and the Northern California Engineering Contractors Association. Some of her largest donors are the California Real Estate political action committee — the political fundraising arm of the California Association of Realtors — and the Sonoma County Alliance, plus Tony Crabb and Barbara Grasseschi, owners of Alexander Valley’s Puma Springs Vineyards and Mike Martini, a former Santa Rosa councilman and general manager of Taft Street Winery in Sebastopol.

    Other donors include Keith Woods, chief executive officer of North Coast Builders Exchange, the construction trade group, Sebastopol grape grower Steve Dutton, Santa Rosa Mayor John Sawyer, real estate investor Larry Wassem, John Balletto of Balletto Vineyards and Winery and Duff Bevill, founder of Bevill Vineyard Management.

    “We support her because she’s a farmer and she understands farming. That helps when you’re in agriculture and you’re looking for support,” said John Azevedo, president of the Farm Bureau. “She’s also willing to have an open dialogue. We aren’t going to agree with her all the time, but at least we know we can sit down and talk with her.”

    You can reach Staff Writer Angela Hart at 526-8503 or [email protected]. On Twitter @ahartreports.
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