Aug 22, 2023

Campaign 2024

Three Napa County Supervisor positions will be open for election in 2024 in primaries on March 5, 2024 and if necessary runoffs in November.

In south county District 5 there is a rematch between incumbent supervisor Belia Ramos and American Canyon city council member Mariam Aboudamous. With incumbent Supervisor Ryan Gregory dropping out of the race, Napa city council member Liz Alesso and former Napa vice-mayor Doris Gentry will be contesting foe District 2 Supervisor. In east county District 4, being vacated by Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza, environmental scientist Amber Manfree is running against former Napa city councilman and businessman Pete Mott.

There would seem to be a very real possibility of a historic all-woman Board of Supervisors beginning in 2025. My preferred slate: Alessio, Manfree, Ramos

Unofficial County Election Results
County Election Page
Supervisor Candidate Statements


NVR 4/5/24: How Napa County voted by precinct
NVR 3/5/24: Election 2024 update: Alessio, Manfree, Ramos react to early Napa County election results
NVR 3/3/24: What Napa County voters need to know ahead of the March 5 election
KQED Forum podcast 2/20/24: The future of wine centers on Napa county supervisors election.
NVR 2/18/24: What Napa County voters need to know ahead of the March 5 election
NVR 2/7/24: Election 2024: Napa County 4th District candidates Manfree, Mott give views
NVR 2/7/24: Election 2024: Change is coming to Napa County Board of Supervisors
Wine-searcher 1/30/24: Napa's Stance on Wine at Stake
NVR 1/23/24: Election 2024: Napa County Board of Supervisors candidates talk agriculture
NVR 12/14/23: Napa County Board of Supervisors races set with some familiar faces
NVR 12/9/23: Napa County Board of Supervisors races taking shape
NVR 11/29/23: Napa County Supervisor Ryan Gregory won't seek third term in 2024
Ed Matovcik LTE 11/7/23: Signs attacking supervisors are uncivil
NVR 5/18/23: More candidates emerge for 2024 Napa County supervisor races
NVR 6/2/23: Former Napa City Councilmember Pete Mott joins Amber Manfree in race for Napa Board of Supervisors


District 2
Ryan Gregory, Incumbent no longer running
Liz Alessio (winner)
Doris Gentry

District 4
Amber Manfree (winning)
Pete Mott

District 5
Belia Ramos Incumbent (winning)
Mariam Aboudamous


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DOJ Investigates Napa

Bill Hocker - Apr 24, 2024 11:33PM  Share #2323

Update 4/24/24
NVR 4/24/24: Former Napa County Farm Bureau chief reported documents stolen days prior to issuance of federal subpoena

Update 4/8/24 world-shaking story!
Daily Mail: 4/6/24: How a secretive FBI probe and mysterious suicide exposed toxic Napa Valley turf war - as 'eco-mob extremists' tell owners of America's world-famous wineries they want their vineyards to BURN

A story salacious enough for the British Tabloid Press! Of course they had to gin up the plot with some complete gaslighting about evil eco-terrorists. The pictures are great though.

Update 4/3/24
NVR 4/3/24: Napa County supervisors reveal their financial interests

Kellie Anderson points to an obvious issue in Sup. Pedroza's financial statements: in addition to being a supervisor, he has a side consulting business that includes Meritage, Farm Bureau and Pacaso (see here) among his clients and also has (even more) loans from George Altamura for business properties. (Meritage and Altamura are listed in the DOJ subpoena to the County. The Farm Bureau has received it's own subpoena). What service could he offer to these players in Napa's development landscape? Perhaps how to insure that their development plans and interests have as little resistance from county government as possible. Is it a conflict of interest? In appearance at the very least.

Update 3/5/24
NVR 3/5/24: Details on FBI search on Alfredo Pedroza's home

Update 3/4/24
NVR 3/4/24: FBI agents visited Napa County Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza's home in December
SR Press Democrat 3/4/24: FBI raided Napa County Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza’s Silverado Country Club home, records show (text version)

Update 3/3/24
SR Press Democrat 3/3/24: Tangled web of connections in DOJ’s investigation in Napa (text version)

Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat has begun to speculate on the connections to Sup. Alfredo Pedroza that have only been hinted thus far, tying together all three of the supboenas sent to the county.

In fairness to Sup. Pedroza it must be noted that it is his job to be at the center of these development issues in the county. And as the scion of the Bill Dodd development machine, and the alpha male on the Board, it is to be expected that he would be very hands on in making them happen. And also, given the American form of political graft that is legalized as a "campaign contribution", it is to be expected that the people and organizations that hope to benefit financially from the supervisors' decisions would be heavy contributors to those politicians most likely to support their goals. Thus far, it is still the unethical, and maybe illegal, action of not disclosing his connection to Vinedos and of not recusing himself in consequence on the Walt Ranch votes that is the most incontrovertible evidence of wrongdoing. But the reach of the DOJ involvement is Sup. Pedrozas affairs does point to something more substantial.

Update 2/23/24
NVR 2/23/24: Major funders of Farm Bureau's PAC named in federal subpoenas
SF Chronicle 2/23/24: How a Napa farming nonprofit became a political power broker" and got caught up in a federal investigation (text version)

This story has just become worthy of national attention. And the pieces are beginning to fit together. Pedroza's (and Gregory's) decision to drop out of politics. The large number of seemingly unrelated names on the subpoena list. Ryan Klobas' suicide.

It is still unclear what criminality the DOJ is looking for. Did the PAC coordinate illegally with candidates? If so would they be so overt about it? With so many subpoenas yet to see the light of day there are, no doubt, many revelations yet to come. What's interesting is that this is coming out right in the middle of voting for Supervisors, and the appearance is that two of candidates running have taken funds from a PAC under investigation.

Both of the other subpoenas for county records, about the airport grand jury report and the Clover Flat landfill antitrust issues involve negotiations with the supervisors over the expansion of the facilities with money to be made by new developers and operators. How might these projects fit into a campaign finance inquiry? And will there be a Minh Tran connection? (Aparently not).

Update 2/21/24
NVR 2/21/24: Federal subpoena issued to Napa County Farm Bureau's political action committee
SR Press Democrat 2/21/24: DOJ targeted info about Napa County Farm Bureau’s PAC in investigation; others subpoenaed were donors

As noted below, the "subpoena with 40 names" sent to the county may have been just one of 160 subpoenas sent out in the same investigation. The subpoena sent to the Farm Bureau could be another. According to the Press Democrat, some of the "40 names" are big donors to the Farm Bureau's PAC, the Fund to Protect Napa Valley Agriculture. The suicide of the Farm Bureau's president Ryan Klobas in late January may, or may not, be a piece in this unfolding puzzle. He was hired in 2017 by the Farm Bureau to head its political operations as community opposition to deforestation of the watersheds for vineyards eroded support for the wine industry, and environmentalists began to challenge the industry on individual projects, in the Measure C initiative and in political campaigns. The Farm Bureau is currently supporting businessman Pete Mott in his campaign against environmentalist Amber Manfree in the race for County Supervisor.

Update 2/13/24
NVR 2/13/24: Napa County subpoenas raise plenty of questions

It is interesting, as Barry Eberling points out based on the USAO No., "2021R00859-160", that the investigation leading to this grand jury may have begun in 2021, before Napa citizens petitioned the California Fair Practices Commission! And as I have been told by an informed source, the 160 in the number might indicate this to be the 160th subpoena in this investigation, meaning a substantial investigation beyond just the county's involvement..

NVR 2/9/24: U.S. Department of Justice seeks Napa County records on airport, Clover Flat landfill, Vinedos (pdf version)

Press Democrat 2/9/24: Subpoenas show feds probing controversial Napa County land deal, airport redevelopment (pdf version)

PDF of Subpoena (with list of entities)

The California Fair Political Practices Comission hasn't been heard from since they agreed to look into Sup. Pedroza's potential conflict of interest in voting to approve Walt Ranch while buying the land next door and then hiding that fact from the public and the board. But someone has obviously spread the word, and the US Justice Dept thinks it worth looking into. The list of 40 entities that the county must provide documents for is extensive and may imply that they are seeking info on several issues. It does seem significant that Sup. Pedroza is not named, even though all of the other characters involved in the Vinedos Project are. It is a devilish fascination googling the names on the list and speculating what, if anything, links them.

The Subpoenea was sent out on Dec 14, 2023 so the county has had two months to dig up the massive number of documents requested (due Feb 14th). They have also been involved in other legal issues in the meantime, like preparation for the county's defense in the Hoopes assault on county policies. Despite my complaints about about the way the county planning staff often acts as part of the development team in confronting community opposition, they have also seemed sincere in striking a balance in the web of business-biased policies, development pressure and community pushback. I think they deserve more appreciation than they seem to be getting.

Amber for District 4 Supervisor

Bill Hocker - Mar 19, 2024 5:15PM  Share #2310

Supes past, present and... : Sam Chapman, Joelle Gallagher, Amber, Kathryn Winter, Brad Wagenknecht
Update 3/26/24
NVR 3/26/24: Napa County supervisor wins for Manfree, Alessio, Ramos nearly official as vote counting nears end

Update 3/19/24 Amber wins!
With only 110 ballots not yet processed as of 3/19/24, Amber Manfree leads Pete Mott by 515 votes, 3900 to 3385. Athough she is waiting until every vote is counted, I am willing to call Amber Manfree as Supervisor Elect for Napa County District 4 in 2024. Her win cements a historic all-woman Board, and hopefully an era of reasoned consensus about the future of Napa County. The numbers are here.

Update 3/15/24
NVR 3/15/24: Napa County will have a history-making Board of Supervisors

Update 3/13/24
Latest talley: Manfree 3725, Mott 3209. 53% to 47%, 516 vote difference.

Update 3/5/24 Preliminary Election Results
NVR 3/5/24: Election 2024 update: Alessio, Manfree, Ramos react to early Napa County election results

Napa County Unofficial Election Results page

The count of mail-in ballots received before 3/1/24 has Amber Manfree leading Pete Mott 1581 to 1420. While that 161 vote difference was enough for local television coverage to declare her the "projected winner", Amber was more cautious: "We're not going to declare an outcome until we see every vote." Unfortunately, for reasons I don't quite understand, it takes more than 9 days of counting to count every vote. We await the Friday update.

Update 2/3/24
Ten years ago, while still in college, Amber Manfree stepped into the world of Napa politics as a resident concerned about a winery project being proposed in her remote county home. At the first meeting of about 30 neighbors, she organized the group with a flip board and marker, moderating the discussion to itemize our concerns. It may have been the first time her expertise and leadership would be of direct service to the residents of Napa County. It would not be the last.

Since then, as an environmental scientist working in geography, ecology, hydology and now transportation, she has become as well versed as anyone on the issues of land use policy that have enabled Napa to survive as a predominantly rural place while the rest of the bay area has urbanized. She has become an advocate and scientific resource for residents and the environment impacted by those policies, at the Board of Supervisors, the Planning Commission, in position papers and in court.

Napa governance is under increasing pressure as the wine industry has transformed from resident owners to large corporations, as the tourism industry seeks to become the dominant economic force in the county, as the pressure of population growth is induced by tourism and industrial development, and as climate change brings additional stress to the county's environment and resources. As the Napa County General plan is revised in the near future, the Board will be critical in ensuring that "preserving the agricultural lands and rural character that we treasure" (in the words of the current General Plan) can continue for the next 50 years. Amber has the analytic skills of a scientist and the committed heart of a long-time rural resident needed to craft that plan.

Amber's list of endorsements is substantial, with five former or current supervisors and two sitting mayors. These endorsements, as well as those by local organizations and other elected officials, are an important indication of her ability to collaborate and to marshall the reservoir of experience needed to solve problems and improve the policies that have made Napa such very unique place. Please vote for Amber Manfree for District 4 Supervisor in 2024.

Amber for Supervisor website

Richard Tippett 3/2/24: Look at the signs
Chuch Del'Ario 3/2/24: Manfree deserves your vote
Suzanne von Rosenberg 3/2/24: Amber Manfree is the supervisor Napa County needs
Sam Chapman 3/2/24: Manfree will keep Napa County special
Sue Wagner 3/2/24: Manfree is the best choice
Sharon Macklin 3/2/24: Manfree will protect Napa
Ron Rhyno 3/2/24: Manfree will make decisions in Napa's best interest
Bill Hocker 2/18/24: Amber has what it takes
Beth Weber Novak 2/18/24: I support Amber Manfree
Marie Henderson 2/18/24: Manfree honest, capable
Ree Whitford 2/16/24: Vote for Manfree
Greg Clark 2/16/24: Manfree understands agriculture
Deborah Fortune Walton 2/16/24: Manfree the most capable person for the job
Bill Chadwick 2/15/24: Amber Manfree will bring fact-based decisions to supervisor role
Shelle Wolfe 2/3/24: Bringing balance to the Board of Supervisors
Sierra Club 2/3/24: Sierra Club endorses Amber Manfree for Napa County Board of Supervisors
PWNV 2/3/24: Progressive Women endorse Manfree
George Caloyannidis 2/3/24: Why Amber Manfree is uniquely qualified for Napa County Board of Supervisors
Mike Hackett 1/21/24: Manfree will look after our land
Luisa Heymann 1/21/24: Manfree understands fire danger
Ester Akersloot 1/21/24: Manfree will get the job done
Susan Elizabeth Crosby 1/20/24: The most qualified candidate
Ken Stanton 1/20/24: Why I'm supporting Amber Manfree
Eve Kahn 1/19/24: Amber Manfree the best choice for Napa County
Mel Varrelman LTE 12/28/23: Manfree is the best choice
Sharon Macklin LTE 12/19/23: Ethics commission needed in Napa
Julia Orr LTE 12/8/23: Amber Manfree is the best choice
Iris Barrie LTE 12/7/23: Amber Manfree for supervisor
Randy Dunn LTE 11/17/23: Environmentalists understand agriculture
Jose Hernandez LTE 11/15/23: Vote for Amber Manfree
Lori Stelling LTE 11/7/23: Manfree the best choice for supervisor
Jean Royce Barstow LTE: Amber Manfree for Napa County Supervisor
Laurie Claudon LTE: Vote for Amber Manfree

Amber Fliers

Amber Videos from 2020
In 2020 Amber, in her first ever run for elected office, managed to come quite close (45.5% of the vote) to a well-funded incumbernt, Afredo Pedroza. The editorial board of the Napa Valley Register at the time praised her as refreshingly authentic and as a rising star, even though it gave its endorsment, almost reluctantly, to her more experienced opponent.

The campaign videos done for that campaign are no less relevant to her message now in the 2024 campaign and should be watched.

Vote for Amber

Amber Manfree for Supervisor: Putting Locals First

Kathryn Winter Endorses Amber Manfree

Environmental Forum For Napa County

Amber Manfree springs into action

Amber at the Arty Party Hour
Great interview!

Amber Manfree reflects on the 2017 Atlas Fires

Vote for Amber!

Vote for Amber!

Still time to vote!

The 2024 Campaign

Bill Hocker - Mar 5, 2024 11:51AM  Share #2315

Update 3/5/24 Preliminary Election Results
NVR 3/5/24: Election 2024 update: Alessio, Manfree, Ramos react to early Napa County election results

Full Napa County Election results are here

Update 2/20/24 KQED Podcast on election issues
Kelli Anderson sends along a link to the KQED Forum podcast on "The future of wine centers on Napa county supervisors election" (1 hr).

The moderator of the podcast, Guy Marzorati, in his questions, seemed to be very knowledgable on the issues at play, but the rambling answers by the panelists tended to obscure those issues. The Register editor, Dan Evans, seemed exceptionally off topic. Mr. Mazorati referenced this Wine-searcher article in one question and it is probably worth reading before listening to the podcast.

The lack of clarity in the participants answers is understandable: every side in Napa's land-use debate wants Napa to remain a rural county that can sustain, both economically and environmentally, the financial benefits desired by businesses (and the county) and the quality of life benefits desired by residents. But how is that achieved?

The business community wants policies that encourage growth, in vineyard acreage, in tourism in more housing and transport projects that induce growth, along with less restrictive and clearer regulation. Residents see the rural, small-town character of the county being eroded by that bottom-line approach and want to see government policies that seek sustainability rather than growth. While sometimes supportive of housing and transport solutions to solve existing problems, they are more concerned about conservation and preservation of the undeveloped environment, more restrictions on future growth in the wine and tourism industries, more attention to the environmental impacts of climate change.

Politics in Napa County has always been a contest between development and conservation interests. Napa is Napa because the conservationists have more often succeeded. But since 2000 the Board of Supervisors has had a development majority and the policies of the 2008 General Plan and subsequent ordinances have reflected that. The 2022 election brought two conservationists on to the board and the majority began to shift. The Le Colline vineyard project, referenced several times in the podcast, represented the first, though perhaps premature, reflection of that shift. The project was turned down on conservation grounds. Premature, because the county is still under the policies of the 2008 general plan and the applicants (and the county staff) felt they had done everything the law required.

That conservationist majority will probably be cemented in this coming election. And they will get to oversee the update to the Napa General Plan. It is for that reason that the pundits see this as such a generational shift and why the wine industry is so nervous. They needn't be. No one wants the wine industry to die.

Update 2/12/24
Press Democrat 2/11/24: Sam Chapman Opinion: Mapping a future for Napa Valley
NVR Sam Chapman LTE 1/16/24: Is Napa County experiencing strategic drift?

Former Supervisor Sam Chapman gives a clear-eyed and comprehensive assessment of the issues at stake for Napa's future as the economy drifts away from wine production and toward good-life tourism and more urban development. Is this the future Napa' s citizens, long protectors of Napa's agrarian heritage, wish for themselves. If not, now is the time to challenge that shifting reality.

NVR 11/29/23: Napa County Supervisor Ryan Gregory won't seek third term in 2024

With the departure of Sup. Gregory from the race, it is assured that a minimum of 4 Supervisors beginning in 2025 will be women. And Amber Manfree running in District 4, after a strong showing against Sup. Pedroza in her first ever election in 2020 ("a potential rising star" in the words of the NVR Editoral Board in 2020) with evermore land use, community and transportation experience since, is in a good position this time around.

Since, as shown in many studies, women seem to be more effective leaders than men, this bodes well for the County as it heads into the important task of updating the General Plan.

Manfree/Mott fire discussion Feb 20

Bill Hocker - Feb 21, 2024 6:37PM  Share #2322

Amber Manfree and Pete Mott will be discussing and taking questions about their approach to fire protection at a forum sponsored by the Atlas Peak Appeltion Association on Tuesday Februrary 20, 2024 from 6 to 8pm at the Vintners Court Room at the Silverado Resort.

The invitation is here and the event is open to everyone.

Update 2/21/24
I have received this email repost from one of the people at the event.

    "I went to the forum last night at Silverado Resort (ugh…).

    Mott, as always phoned it in and talked a lot but, didn’t say much in terms of original planning or thinking if he was elected.

    Amber got more comfortable as the event went on in delivering her priorities, and kicked ass towards the end when the audience engaged when she spoke about using her expertise and willingness to reach across the table to work on issues that impact everyone in the county. I even saw $upporter$ of Mott nodding in agreement when Amber was dropping some science!!! At the end, multiple people were waiting to speak with Amber, and Mott had very few people speaking with him, and left shortly after. Amber was literally the last person to leave the room, and even got stopped by one more person on the way out."

The NVR editorial board endorsement

Bill Hocker - Feb 14, 2024 9:39AM  Share #2321

NVR editorial board 2/14/24: Election 2024: Napa Valley Register county supervisor endorsements

Regarding the endorsement of Pete Mott over Amber Manfree:

    "In the end, the board believes whoever wins this race will well represent the district on the board. But it is a choice."

Why do they need to choose when one will represent as well as another? The big type face given to their chosen name implies a greater difference than their opinion suggests, and is a disservice to a candidate they consider equally qualified. There is no law that requires the board to pick one of the candidates.

    "Mott will likely be more open to development and business interests, while Manfree will likely lean toward preserving the area’s natural beauty - perhaps at the expense of those interests. Regardless, we believe both will forcefully protect the limits of the Agricultural Preserve, something voters in Napa County have long demanded of its leaders."

And the reason they chose Mr. Mott?

    "Despite all this, we choose Mott. We particularly liked the specificity of his plans regarding rural fire protection...."

Manfree property 2017Manfree property 2020
I think few people understand the issues of rural fire protection and the the county's dependence on Cal Fire better than Amber. Her family's property burned in the 1981, 2017 and 2020 fires. Those last two fires provided first hand, on the ground experience (including residents having to do their own firefighting) that will be invaluable in crafting the details of any fire plan the Board will produce.The business community yells the loudest given their losses in the glass fire and the hit on tourism, but residents have just as great a stake in fire protection. It is unlikely that the two candidates will differ in their efforts to maximize fire protection county-wide (unless, of course, the business community claims deforestation for vineyards is a fire protective strategy). Again it is a disservice to elevate one candidate over the other on this issue. It is a thin reed to use to justify appeasing the pro-development bent of the editorial board.

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