A Post-Election Life

news2-1Eric Hammer keeps tabs on his district well after the dust has settled on his unsuccessful bid for Fifth District Supervisor

It was a race that cost more than $300,000 in combined campaign spending.

The Supervisor race for the Fifth District was one of the most contentious of the local 2012 election, closing at a margin of 145 votes with former California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson landing on top. For the candidate not currently settling into a seat on the Board of Supervisors, local business owner Eric Hammer, it was a race hard fought and hard lost.

“It took everything I had,” Hammer says. “It was an educational experience.”

The victor, McPherson, whose campaign spending accounted for $200,000 of the $300,000, says he will focus on the needs of the often-ignored San Lorenzo Valley in his representation of the Fifth District, which includes Felton, Ben Lomond, Boulder Creek and parts of Scotts Valley. McPherson tells GT that he wants to focus on “innovative ideas” to help with transportation and roads, health and human services.

“I’m excited to come closer to home and perform this public service in more of the local scene,” McPherson says.

His former opponent, however, remains skeptical of McPherson’s intentions post-election season.

“He made some promises and said San Lorenzo Valley was important to him,” Hammer says. “I hope it stays a top priority.”

During the campaign, Hammer touted the fact that he is a born-and-bred San Lorenzo Valley resident who has served on the Boulder Creek Recreation and Park District Board for the past seven years and worked on projects like renovating Garrahan Park in Boulder Creek. He helped run a Teen Center with Youth First, served on the Board of Community Bridges—a human service organization that works with multiple nonprofits—and owns Eric Hammer Construction in Brookdale.

news2-2McPherson also stressed his deep local roots as a “fourth-generation Santa Cruz County native” who worked for the Santa Cruz Sentinel for 26 years. His political credentials outweighed Hammer’s—he had tenures as an Assemblyman, Senator and Secretary of State in California under his belt. But he vehemently opposes Hammer’s assertion that these state-office positions removed him from local issues.

“To insinuate that that means he knows more about this county is ludicrous,” McPherson says. “I’m very much aware of the needs and concerns of the people in this county. I feel comfortable and I feel prepared for it.”

But what’s done is done, and Hammer says his stunted political career will not slow down his work in the community. He’s looking into bringing a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program to Boulder Creek. Along with the Boulder Creek Business Association, Hammer is researching how to make the area an “independent power source.” The CCA program would allow local governments to purchase or generate the power they want—and in Hammer’s opinion, this should be sustainable energy in line with the county’s draft Climate Action Plan—and pay a utility to transport that energy to local homes and businesses.

Hammer calls this locally based option “the future.”

“It’s being talked about very quietly and in small breakouts,” Hammer says. “They invite the community but the community’s not coming because they don’t see the big picture that’s being sold. I think once it becomes a more accepted practice, I think we’re going to see a lot more of that.”

In addition to this goal, Hammer is, in a broader sense, looking for ways to drum up support for local businesses and tourism. He says a portion of the community only live in the San Lorenzo Valley but conduct all their business “over the hill.” He hopes to spur more engagement with the community by building a community center with the help of Friends of Boulder Creek (although the group doesn’t know it yet).

“That’s still something I’m very passionate about,” Hammer says.

Hammer says there is a lot to be done to make San Lorenzo Valley a place that he wants his kids to grow up in, a place that is safe and family-oriented.

“There’s not a whole lot to do out here,” he says. “There used to be a bowling alley, there used to be a pool … [and] a roller-skating rink. There’s nothing out here for kids [now]. For me it’s about developing programs for kids, after-school programs for kids, [to] try to give them a lifestyle.”

Hammer worries that the more policy-level decisions needed to achieve his goals will be hard to accomplish because the only form of representation the area has is through the County Board of Supervisors.  

“At times I feel that that sets us up for failure,” Hammer says.

Hammer has not stated whether or not he will run for Supervisor again, but says he is leaving the option open. He says he is taking the next six months to step back a bit, rebuild his business and spend time with family.

Chairperson Brian Murtha of the People’s Democratic Club, a club chartered by the Democratic Central Committee, helped walk precincts in the primary and election for Hammer, and also helped with phone banking. For Murtha, Hammer’s victory in four years would be a sure one.

“If Bruce McPherson dares to run again,” says Murtha, “I think Eric Hammer’s development of his voter base will overwhelm Bruce McPherson four years from now.”

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