MARIN is enjoying a phenomenon it's not experienced in years, a contested election for an incumbent's seat on its Board of Supervisors. The outcome is likely to determine if county government continues to lean left or returns to the political center.Unfortunately, only voters in the San Rafael-centered First Supervisorial District can participate in the epic contest between two-termer Susan Adams and challenger Kerry Mazzoni.

Voters always claim they want real choices.

This year, their wish is granted.

The two candidates are polar opposites on everything but social issues.

Adams regards herself as a progressive. That's Marinspeak for those to the left of traditional liberals. Mazzoni, a past Democratic Assemblywoman and state Secretary of Education calls herself a centrist, which is what Marinites call liberal Democrats with a pro-business bent.
Mazzoni's goal is to move Marin's Board of Supervisors to the political center.

In a frank analysis, Mazzoni said that if she prevails, a moderate block composed of herself along with Supervisors Judy Arnold and Steve Kinsey would form the new majority on the five-member board of supervisors. That board is now often dominated by Adams and fellow progressives Charles McGlashan and Hal Brown.

On the campaign's marquee issue, the formation of the Marin Energy Authority, the Adams-Mazzoni race is a de facto referendum on the authority's plan to replace PG&E as Marin's principal electricity provider.

McGlashan was the board's spark plug behind MEA, the pioneering effort to allow community choice in selecting local power providers. Adams sees the agency's environmental benefits overwhelming what she considers slight financial risks.

For Mazzoni, MEA was "the precipitating factor" convincing her to enter the race at the last minute. Calling it "too risky in difficult financial times," she urges Marin to instead emulate Sonoma's so-far successful effort offering homeowners low interest loans to install eco-friendly solar heating and cooling systems.

Mazzoni is the first major candidate for supervisor ever to call for systematic conversion of Marin's troubled county employees retirement system into a private enterprise-style 401(k) plan. For new hires that would replace the current defined-benefit scheme which guarantees fixed retirement payments for life.

Adams, while recognizing the pension plan's ruinous five-year $46 million deficit, calls for the state Legislature to enact uniform, statewide reforms. Mazzoni responded that "the way the unions have a stranglehold on the Democrats É waiting for Sacramento to do anything is folly."

Whatever the issue, the Dutra quarry, the proposed $100 million county emergency operations center, the fate of the boarded-up Marinwood Shopping Center, the paper bag ban tax, the need for a Marin Economic Forum or a homeless shelter in San Rafael, Adams is on the left and Mazzoni to her right.

Since both are well-qualified, hard-working and personable, the race isn't a personality contest. This pivotal decision will be made solely on how individual voters come down on these issues.
Those who lean to the left likely would vote for Adams. Moderates and conservatives probably will mark their ballot for Mazzoni.

Whoever wins, the result will be a county supervisor who commences her term with a true electoral mandate.
Susan Adams ran on "Cows not Condos in 2002.  In 2014 favors "Smart Growth" to urbanize Marin at a scale not seen in decades. The housing element for unincorporated Marin encourages the increase in 30% of the housing stock in Marinwood-Lucas Valley with tax free "non profit" housing.