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 bodies. 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.
Division Three: Mike Wilson (incumbent) v. Dan Hauser.
Hauser -- a freight-booster -- announced his candidacy Friday morning for the district's Arcata-centric seat, 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.
"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," Hauser writes in his announcement statement. "I firmly believe that we must continue to explore the option of creating a world-class green port that will set an example for smaller ports around the world."
Hauser 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 scene, which once loathed the liberal Hauser and his whole 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, 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 Development Committee, I strongly encourage community dialog about sustainable and realistic alternatives for economic development around Humboldt Bay," he said.
Division Four: Dennis Hunter (incumbent)? Richard Marks? Definitely someone else, in any case.
Meanwhile, blogger, union man and former pulp mill employee Richard Marks confirmed Friday that he has taken out papers for the Eureka-based seat with the county election department. However, he said that he was a long way from making a decision, and that decision would largely be based on whether the longtime incumbent is ready to jump in for another round.
"I'm waiting for a decision by Dennis Hunter," Marks 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?"
Reached Monday morning, Hunter, who has voted with the pro-freight block, noted only that he has until Aug. 7 to make up his mind, and that he planned to use that time well.
The credible off-the-record word on the street, though, is that there'll be another candidate diving in before that deadline rolls around -- a freight skeptic -- and this one won't shy from taking Hunter head-on. We're told to look for an announcement soon.
With this issue, the Journal is devastated to say goodbye to Emily Hobelmann, who has served as our calendar editor, weed correspondent, rapper's moll and stalker of Times-Standard reporters for over two years. We lost out to the University of Hawaii, which outbid our Snoop Dogg comp tickets by offering the omni-talented Hobelmann a Ph.D candidacy in mathematics. Our readers will suffer, but we will suffer more: Emily's daily reports from the frontlines of her adventurous and improbable life were one of the few reasons to look forward to coming to this dark, dismal office.
Fear not. Whiz kid Andrew Goff, he of "Seven-O-Heaven" fame, is taking over Hobelmann's duties. Look forward to new cartoons featuring people staring into computers and talking on telephones for eight hours a day.