Humboldt County is an insanely political place, but off-year elections are not usually very exciting. You've got your school boards and your community services districts -- important stuff, but not usually interesting anyone who isn't immediately affected by the work of such boards. With rare exception, they generally don't inspire the countywide heat that your Board of Supervisor race does, say, or our Eureka City Council election.
There's been one exception to this rule in recent cycles: The Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District. This district's grand, insanely expensive and against-all-odds plan to bring container shipping and other types of international freight to Humboldt Bay has been a dependable political lightning rod since at least 2005. Plenty of money, time and effort have gone into district races, and plenty of screaming ensues.
It looks like the election coming up this Nov. 3 will not disappoint. Here's a preview of the two races on the ballot as they stand today.
MIKE WILSON (incumbent) v. DAN HAUSER.
-- either --
DENNIS HUNTER (incumbent) v. NOBODY.
-- or --
RICHARD MARKS v. NOBODY.
Hauser -- a freight-booster -- announced his candidacy this morning, personally dropping off the press release at the Journal offices. He is a former state assemblymember, former Arcata City Manager and former executive director of the North Coast Railroad Authority, the state agency that owns the long-defunct rail line through Humboldt County. In the past year he has twice asked the Board of Supervisors to appoint him to the board of directors of the railroad authority; in both cases, the board chose someone else.
Here's an excerpt from his press release, which, alas, we only have in printed form:
I feel that we need a commissioner who will both protect the environment of Humboldt Bay and create meaningful jobs for our community I will research all environmental and economic facts when looking at the best option for creating living-wage jobs. I firmly believe that we must continue to expolre the option of creating a world-class green port that will set an example for smaller ports around the world.
Hauser's kicks off his candidacy with a long list of endorsements from old-school Democratic Humboldt County political movers and shakers. They include Supervisors Jimmy Smith and Jill Duffy, Senator wes Chesbro, Arcata Mayor Mark Wheetley, Eureka Mayor Virginia Bass and current Bay District commissioners Ronnie Pelligrini and Roy Curless. Somewhat shockingly to anyone who has been around here for a while, they also include former Humboldt County Supervisors Danny Walsh and Anna Sparks, prominent representatives of the OLD-old-school Humboldt County conservative scence, which once loathed the liberal Hauser and all his crew with an ardent passion.
Third Division incumbent Mike Wilson, perhaps the county's most prominent freight skeptic, said today that he will, in fact, seek reelection. "I plan on running, but I haven't made an announcement yet," he said.
Pending that announcement, apparently, he had little to say about the race on the record. However, he did have a brief statement that seemed to counter Hauser's economic development argument: "As an active member of the business community, member of RREDC [the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission] and the Chamber of Commerce and a founding member of the Humboldt Harbor District Economic Develoopment Committtee, I strongly encourage community dialog about sustainable and realistic alternatives for economic development around Humboldt Bay," he said.
Meanwhile in the Fourth Division: Blogger, union man and former pulp mill employee Richard Marks confirmed that he has taken out papers for the seat with the county election department. However, he said that he was a long way for making a decision, and that his decision on whether or not to run would be largely based on whether or not the longtime incumbent is ready to jump in for another round.
"I'm waiting for a decision by Dennis Hunter," he said. "I really would have to sit down and consider whether I would actually run against Dennis."
Why not? Is it that he supports Hunter's position on the issues?
"I'm just loath to run against Dennis," said Marks, twice a candidate for county supervisor. "Have you seen my election record, Hank?"
Hunter could not be reached for comment Friday.