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And They're Off 

A late, curious start for 4th and 5th district challengers

After rumor mongering, plodding, hemming, hawing, and perhaps some behind the scenes prodding, there will be a supervisors race after all.

On March 7, former Eureka Councilman Chris Kerrigan announced his candidacy for the county's 4th District seat via a short speech on the steps of the County Elections Office. Backed by several notable Humboldt County lefties, Kerrigan said "Humboldt is waiting for its Eureka moment," to the crowd's applause.

Meanwhile, McKinleyville's Sharon Latour, who oversees the Arcata Presbyterian congregation, has been relatively silent about her 5th District bid so far, filing all the necessary paperwork by deadline but failing to return multiple calls placed over the last five days.

If the late filings are any indication, there's been a bit of reluctance to take on current supervisors Virginia Bass (4th District) and Ryan Sundberg (5th District), though there's been grumbling from some county residents unhappy with the incumbents.

In an interview following his Friday rally, Kerrigan admitted it will be difficult to unseat Bass. "I feel like this is a David vs Goliath battle," he said. "But I think that my plans and vision for the county will resonate with Humboldt County voters and 4th District voters."

Kerrigan had announced his candidacy for Eureka mayor back in December, and explained that he broadened his political ambitions because of recent stagnation of the GPU and Bass' appointment of Kevin McKenny to the county planning commission. "As I began to talk with people and talk about the issues that were affecting Eureka residents," Kerrigan said, "I realized I could make the most impact on the board of supervisors."

McKenny owns the long-defunct Downtowner Motel on F Street, and some residents expressed outrage when he was placed on the commission despite his failure to revamp the motel.

Kerrigan went directly after Bass, both in his speech and in discussing his platform afterward, saying she ran on the promise of completing the general plan.

"It's difficult to ask investors to invest in our economy when we don't have a plan to move forward," Kerrigan said. "In addition to that, her appointment to the planning commission of the owner of the Downtowner Motel really demonstrated a lack of guidance, of forethought."

Kerrigan said the county needs to focus on guidelines and parameters for development to avoid taking timber and agricultural land out of production, focusing development on "where we have existing infrastructure and blighted property that need to be fixed up, as opposed to our gulches and greenways."

Kerrigan is on the Boys and Girls Club of Eureka board of directors, and served on the Eureka City Council from ages 20 to 28 before reaching his term limit. After that he went to Humboldt State University, earning his bachelor's degree in political science. "There's a certain amount of life experience in my 20s that I didn't have," he said. "I needed that time to rebuild a strength of spirit, focus on myself."

Bass defended her board's progress with the general plan update as she announced her bid for re-election on Feb. 7, telling a crowd gathered in front of the courthouse to expect "additional creative and proactive steps toward reducing homelessness, empowering the neighborhoods and providing access to those in the community who need access" if she's re-elected.

Bass, the former manager of O-H's Townhouse, Eureka coucilwoman and mayor, defeated longtime supervisor Bonnie Neely in 2010, taking 55 percent of the vote.

Sundberg's 2010 election to the board — in which he defeated Patrick Cleary in a much tighter 50.57 percent to 49.04 percent vote — followed his years of service on the Trinidad Rancheria's Tribal Council. In his re-election announcement, Sundberg told the Mad River Union he supported creating jobs and making sure the county doesn't stand in the way of that goal.

Both Sundberg and Bass have received endorsements from a variety of notables in their re-election bids.

Sharon Latour's been notably silent since confirming her campaign March 3 to the Lost Coast Outpost — her only public comment on the 5th District race so far. One of her campaign volunteers explained Tuesday that Latour was out of town on a previous arrangement and unable to comment by press deadline. Questions about her public service experience, political ambitions and view of county politics remain unanswered at this point, but her background, according to her resume and a 2010 interview with Examiner.com, is diverse: student, professor, pastor, military educator, jock.

Latour told an Examiner.com interviewer she'd wanted to be a minister since a childhood in a Catholic school, eventually abandoning Catholicism after 10 years in the Air Force when she realized she "wanted to be all about peace." She served for a total of 20 years.

She oversaw "values education" at Maxwell Air Force Base in the mid-1990s before moving on to career and faculty development. "The major reason I joined the Air Force was because I felt that we all sort of owed a little debt for our freedom and then I ended up really loving it," she told Examiner.com. The U.S. invasion of Iraq convinced her to retire. Her Air Force pension, according to the interview, allowed her to take a position as the Garberville Presbyterian Church pastor in 2007 with no salary. She wrote a column for Southern Humboldt's Redwood Times during her stint at the church before taking positions as the Arcata Presbyterian Church leader and an adjunct professor of women's studies at College of the Redwoods. According to her resume, Latour has a Bachelor of Arts degree, four masters degrees and a Ph.D in physical education administration and leadership theory.

Latour's columns and Examiner interview also reveal some of her thoughts on faith. "Literal interpretation takes the mystery away from the thought process and I think it is wonderful that we can have differences in understanding," she said. "Faith and religion are personal as is our relationship with God and Jesus. Yes there is the guidebook of the Bible but it is our faith that makes the relationship real to us."

If there's one indication of the uphill battle that Latour and Kerrigan face, it's the powerful war chests built up by Bass and Sundberg's campaigns. Going into 2014, Bass had nearly $60,000 in campaign funds. Sundberg had nearly $42,000.

This story has been updated to correct an editing error and clarify Latour's tenure in the Air Force.
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Grant Scott-Goforth

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Grant Scott-Goforth has been an assistant editor and staff writer for The Journal since 2013.

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