by Judy Hodgson, Editor and Publisher
This month's cover story is one I have had on my list for a long time. Whatever happened to those two young fire-breathing county supervisors of the early '80s who were on the front lines of many environment-vs.-the-economy battles here in Humboldt County?
Danny Walsh and Wesley Chesbro both went to Sacramento to accept high-level political appointments, we knew, but then what?
In the last few months we have been watching a political chess game unfold. First, state Sen. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, faced with state term limits, declared his intention to run against Rep. Frank Riggs, R-Windsor, for Congress. (Democrat Michela Alioto still says she will run again, but she was soundly beaten by Riggs last time.) Assembly member Valerie Brown, D-Sonoma, considered a top Democratic contender for Thompson's seat, unexpectedly dropped out of the race and so did Sonoma County Supervisor Tim Smith, leaving a window of opportunity for Chesbro.
On the Republican side, there are three hopefuls so far for Thompson's seat, but it has been a long dry spell for Republicans in this district where Democrats have the voter registration edge.
I started reporting on Humboldt County politics in 1981 for The Union newspaper in Arcata. It was a fascinating time especially watching the then-young men on our cover this month. They were intelligent, articulate, hard-working politicians and passionate in their beliefs.
What the public probably did not know was that they had a certain respect for each other as worthy opponents. Away from the cameras they were friendly foes. I remember once before they left for Sacramento, they went together on a fishing trip on the Eel River. I wanted to take a photo of the occasion but Chesbro declined, saying they were off duty.
I always felt that one or the other -- or both -- would run for public office again.
Chesbro's chances, I think, are mixed. Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters said, "Democratic pros worry that Chesbro's background as an environmental militant may turn off blue-collar and moderate Democrats and open the door to a Republican, very possibly Windsor coffeehouse owner John Jordan, who promises to spend much of his own money."
Chesbro was a brash young man when he burst upon the political scene here in Humboldt County. He stepped on more than a few toes. But in our interview last month he said, "I am not asking people to vote for Wesley Chesbro, the Arcata City Council member of 1974. I am asking them to vote for Wesley Chesbro, the person who has represented the North Coast (on the state solid waste management board) with the help of Barry Keene and Mike Thompson for the last seven years and who has 16 years of local government experience. I think I'm ready to do the job."
This is a difficult district to represent. "A collection of lovable nuts," is just one of the more colorful comments made by Danny Walsh in his interview last month.
I tend to agree.
The North Coast Journal Table of Contents