Bruce McPherson (R), former California secretary of state, has entered the race for Santa Cruz county district five supervisor. The district, which currently includes a portion of the UCSC campus, will be represented by Mark Stone until December 2012 when Stone’s eight-year stint as supervisor will come to an end.

McPherson said local government is “by and large the most efficient” and thinks his community leadership experience, whether it was as editor of the Santa Cruz Sentinel or as state assemblyman and senator, qualifies for the “knowledge and experience” the job requires.

“I’m running because people have encouraged me to run,” McPherson said.

A California state assemblyman from 1993 until 1996, McPherson moved on to become a state senator for two terms until 2004. In 2005, he was nominated by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to become secretary of state as Kevin Shelley resigned in the middle of his term.

Not the only one to go from a interest in state to local politics, state senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) is planning to run for a seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors at the end of his term next year.

Other candidates have announced to run or have expressed interest in entering the fifth district race. They include former Boulder Recreation and Park District chair John Abel, San Lorenzo Valley contractor Eric Hammer, Lompico County Water District board member Bill Smallman, and former San Lorenzo Valley school board member Susan Weber.

While there is support for McPherson’s candidacy, some community members are skeptical of him. John Glass, a supporter of local contractor Eric Hammer, expressed concerns regarding McPherson’s voting record.

John Glass, supporter of local contractor Eric Hammer. Photo by Sal Ingram.

“Eric is environmentally responsible, environmentally aware,” Glass said. “I can’t say the same thing for McPherson. He’s supposed to be a moderate Republican, but I don’t think he’s ever supported a labor law or gay rights.”

“I think the county has a great labor force,” McPherson immediately retorted in a phone interview when Glass’s comments were brought up.  “Small businesses are gonna get us out of this job-drought … and that’s what they mostly have in the fifth District.”

McPherson said he expected such criticism but was surprised to hear it so early in the race.

“The last thing I want to do is get this to be a partisan office, and if that’s where this is going, I think this is a big mistake,” he said.

McPherson said he knows he has name recognition, but that he is running because he believes in public service, which is something he said he is very passionate about.

Candidate Eric Hammer said his “qualifications come from being a community advocate for the past 16 years.” He emphasized the important role UCSC students play in making decisions regarding county services.

“There are a huge amount of students that live off-campus,” he said. “Many commute to campus from the Scotts Valley and San Lorenzo Valley area. Transportation and water issues are very important for students.”

Hammer doubts McPherson’s ability to represent residents of the fifth district because of his recent acquaintance with the area.

“A supervisor’s position should be grassroots,” Hammer said. “It should be filled by someone from the community who understands it. Bruce is a well-know legislator. He just recently moved into the district four months ago. I don’t think he clearly represents this community.”