Paul Kelley, 46, the most conservative of the five supervisors, faced a tough re-election battle this year against Windsor City Councilwoman Debora Fudge and Healdsburg City Councilman Mike McGuire. Kelley beat Fudge by fewer than 300 votes in the 2006 election.

But it’s also not a given that Kelley would have lost considering the economy (people tend to vote more conservatively in down years), his name recognition and the fact that turnout during a mid-year election won’t be close to what it was in 2008.

In any event, it was going to be a fight against two smart contenders who have been campaigning hard since at least the middle of last year. Although a first-time candidate for countywide office, McGuire, 30, who won a second term on the Healdsburg City Council in 2008, has been seen pounding the pavement and attending many local events.

Fudge, 54, has been on the Windsor Town Council since 1996, said she made up her mind to run the day after her narrow loss in 2006. She’s been campaigning almost ever since.

It’s also a good bet that, had Kelley run, pro-union independent expenditure committees, which were so active in the 2008 supervisors race, would have been out in force issuing mailers against him. It’s no secret that Kelley and his colleagues on the board earned enemies when they voted to scale back benefits for retirees in order to confront the county’s runaway long-term financial commitments.
So who might join the race now that Kelley has bowed out?
Some of the names that I’ve heard being tossed around today include:

  • Healdsburg Mayor Jim Wood;
  • Former Healdsburg City Councilwoman Lisa Schaffner, now the executive director of Sonoma County Alliance;
  • Windsor Vice Mayor Steve Allen
  • And Healdsburg City Councilman Gary Plass,

One or more of these candidates could be in the running to pick up some of Kelley’s supporters. Candidate filing begins in February and closes March 12.

–    Paul Gullixson