Some of us wish this Fifth District Sonoma County Supervisors’ race would stick to obvious local issues such as road maintenance, sewage disposal and keeping the Russian River clean and flowing. We are probably naïve. Never mind the potholes. You have to follow this contest closely or you might miss the deeper nuances.

 The two leading candidates — Noreen Evans and Lynda Hopkins — would normally both qualify as enlightened social progressives even in the fussy West County. We would probably consider ourselves lucky to have either one of them in office if they didn’t happen to be running against each other.

 Since there’s not much apparent difference in their political gestalt, this race could hinge not so much on their positions on issues as on their tone and style. Evans wears funny shoes; Hopkins sounds kind of squeaky. These things may matter more than their ideas on groundwater management or subsidized housing.

 We know that who’s endorsing whom and giving them money will carry some weight. So will the candidates’ ages; Hopkins is young and Evans is mature. Which is better?

Evans and her supporters tell us she’s the more knowledgeable candidate, with lots of experience as a state politician in Sacramento. That makes her wiser, more savvy and better prepared to get the job done, right? How Evans’ real-world experience is shaping her current campaign strategy may be instructive.

Who would have guessed, for instance, in the sensitive West County, that Evans would resort to comparing Hopkins to a rapist, or worse, a male sympathizer? This in itself may mark a major milestone in West County political drama.

We’ve had Evans telling us that Hopkins (or anyone else who’s listening) must denounce the endorsement of our current supervisor, Efren Carrillo, owing to Carrillo’s arrest three years ago in that notorious social blunder at his neighbor’s apartment.

 Anything less, according to Evans, would in essence condone Carrillo’s behavior.

 “Silence is acceptance,” Evans said in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat the other day, “and silence is what allows rape culture to flourish.”

Evans’ remark seemed to give Hopkins a tidy choice; either call Carrillo a total bum or be guilty of allowing rape culture to flourish. This is the world according to Evans, the voice of experience.

 After his arrest Carrillo was prosecuted in Sonoma County Superior Court and found not guilty. The jury that acquitted Carrillo included 10 women. We haven’t heard much from them since then. Are they promoting rape culture?

 Evans’ political gambit took an even more brilliant turn last week when former Fifth District Supervisor (and Evans supporter) Ernie Carpenter faulted Lynda Hopkins for “taking the high road” rather than risk getting in the ring with Evans for some good old-fashioned mud wrestling.

 If Ernie Carpenter is correct that Evans is the better choice for public office because she’s more capable of wading into the muck, maybe that’s all we need to know. Who’s the more experienced slimeball?

 If nothing else, Carpenter’s longing to see these candidates go down the low road certainly bolsters Evans’ argument that experience counts, although it’s unclear in Evans’ case whether it will count for her or against her.

 Why is it just assumed nowadays that people who run for public office will be attacked for doing that, if nothing else? It’s like they’ve put their heads in the stocks and invited everyone to throw stones and rotten fruit. And we do. Our zeal is scary.

Who would consider such a thing? Only crazy people?

 Imagine if you were a private sector employer interviewing job candidates and one prospect started bad-rapping another in this political fashion. ‘Let me tell you about the other guy applying for this job. He’s got bad breath, beats his dog and can’t balance a checkbook. I just thought I should warn you.’

 It may be true, but hearing that from a competing job seeker you might think, ‘This person is nuts.’

That’s how it goes today in American politics. Which way is up?

Frank Robertson is a columnist and reporter for Sonoma West Publishersr.

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