Yes, it's almost a year out yet, but the races for the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors are undoubtedly the top ticket in our corner of the world -- money, power, screaming, dirt -- and so it's never too early to bring the advance intel on the next go-round's fight card. This week's news comes from the Fifth District, the vast, sprawling territory encompassing the northern part of the county, including McKinleyville and everything north and east.
Scoop: Two-term incumbent Jill Duffy (formerly Geist) will not seek reelection in 2010! "When I ran the first time, and when I ran the last time, I said I felt that two terms was long enough to be in this position," Duffy told the Journal Monday.
The news will undoubtedly thrill one of the two big teams on the field -- the progressives. They worked hard to get her elected in 2002, but have since deemed that she has shown insufficient fealty to the cause, and have long been scouting around for a challenger. As in 2002, the big political issue is land use -- specifically, the long-delayed, terminally postponed Humboldt County General Plan Update, which was just around the corner during Duffy's first campaign and is still just around the corner today.
Roughly speaking, the progs and the paleocons, each with their grab bag of allies and defectors, are fighting it out over what sort of development to inflict upon Humboldt County in the next 20 years. In a sort of inversion of the English language, the "progressives" want to mandate slow, controlled growth and the "conservatives" are pushing more toward a laissez faire free-for-all.
With Duffy removing herself from the field of battle, the progs have a better shot at capturing the seat. But which horse will they choose? At this point, one has to assume that they will throw their weight behind the new frontrunner: the many-hatted Patrick Cleary, who enters the arena from center left. Name ring a bell? It should: Cleary is, in rough order of importance, the owner of the Lost Coast Communications radio empire (KHUM, KSLG, "The Point); the chair of the Board of the Directors of the Headwaters Fund, the county's economic development pot o' cash; the head of the Humboldt Folklife Society; the interim general manager of public radio station KHSU; a former Wall Street investment banker; and a mean guitar picker. Stellar credentials, in other words.
But wait a minute -- is he even going to run for the seat? "There are a lot of people who have asked me to consider it, and I am contemplating it," Cleary told the Journal Monday. Decoded: Yes, he is going to run for the seat. If you need further proof, he was quick with a quote about the qualities he would bring to the Board.
"I think what I could bring is an ability to work with people, to cut through some of the posturing and convince people that economic development doesn't mean we are the next Santa Rosa," he wrote us via instant message. Not necessarily words that will set the prog heart a-thumping, but the district itself isn't really as prog-heavy as some others. Politically speaking, anyway, Cleary will be a force to reckon with, as he combines economic street cred, a longstanding business relationship with the politically generous Blue Lake Racheria and a love of banjo music. Downside? The Headwaters Fund has been in the political doghouse of late, and Cleary will undoubtedly be made to taste some of that unsavory meal during the coming campaign.
So who are the cons going to go with? Realtor and superstar triathelete Mike Pigg was a rumored candidate, but he unequivocally took himself out of the picture in a conversation with the Journal Thursday. "Some people look into it as a part-time job; I look at it as a full-time job," Pigg said -- with young kids and the day job, he simply would not be able to put in the time that he would have liked.
Another name often mentioned is Ryan Sundberg, a prominent young member of the Trinidad Rancheria. On Tuesday, Sundberg all but repeated Cleary's words. "I've been asked by people, and I'm considering it right now," he said. "I haven't made any decision whatsoever." he said. This reporter's learned opinion? Sundberg's equivocation was genuine, while Cleary's was coy.