Didn’t we just have an election?

I can’t believe I am saying this, but we’re already into election season for 2018. And I am not even talking about the president, who staged the earliest-ever election rally shortly after his inauguration.

No, I am talking about local elections.

We’re nine months away from the June 5 primary, and 14 months away from the big Election Day on Nov. 6, but already the campaigns have started.

So far as I am aware, three candidates have stepped forward already to run for two available seats on the Napa City Council. The earliest was businessman Bernie Narvaez, who announced in late June, nearly a year before the primary, and he’s been followed by Liz Alessio and Mary Luros, who served on the council for two years previously.

Already one person, American Canyon resident Jason Kishineff has said he will run for Congress against Rep. Mike Thompson.

And Supervisor Diane Dillon held her first reelection fundraising event over the summer.

In St. Helena, meanwhile, a recall petition against Mayor Alan Galbraith has already vaulted the city into full campaign mode, which is a breathtaking thing to witness, as any observer of St. Helena politics will testify.

Even more mind bending is the fact that paperwork to file as a candidate for the November elections, for city officials at least, won’t even be available until July 18, so many of these “declared” candidates are actually nearly a year away from even starting their formal process to get on the ballot.

So what gives? Partly, I think it is the accelerated political calendar at the national level that has everyone thinking 2018 already.

Locally, though, it could be an interesting year and lots of people want to get in early. On the Napa City Council, incumbent Juliana Inman has already said she won’t run again, leaving one guaranteed vacancy. On top of that, the upstart win by Doris Gentry in the 2016 contest may have given some would-be candidates encouragement that they might have a chance, even if veteran Councilmember Peter Mott runs for reelection, as widely expected.

On the Board of Supervisors, meanwhile, 2016 represented something of a generational shift, with Belia Ramos replacing the retiring Keith Caldwell, Ryan Gregory knocking off incumbent Mark Luce, a fixture in county politics since Ryan was in elementary school, and Alfredo Pedroza winning election after two years in an appointed position on the board. That may have younger candidates eyeing seats on the board or on city and town councils with renewed interest, making it a wise move for Diane Dillon to plant a marker early that she intended to defend her supervisor seat.

Whatever the reason, here we are, with election season started already. That means a few ground rules.

First, if you plan to declare your candidacy, we’d be happy to run a small item. Just be sure to deliver a press release and a photo as soon as possible after your kickoff rally, and we’ll give you the same treatment as we have given several others already. We’ve had at least one candidate declare his candidacy via a letter to the editor. I’ll be happy to entertain letters from others as well, so long as it doesn’t get out of hand (and no double dipping – if we ran a news story about your kickoff, don’t write a letter. If you declared via letter, don’t expect a kickoff story. One to a customer, please).

On the opinion page, the rules are simple. Candidates cannot write in on their own behalf (except in the case of declaring candidacy, as I mentioned above, or if we offer them a chance to respond to specific criticism or charges). Supporters may write in to endorse a candidate, but the usual limits apply – one letter per month per author and no more than 800 words, though the shorter the better.

I’ll accept election letters related to primary races up until May 26 and the general election up until Oct. 26. After that, I’ll accept rebuttal letters on a case-by-case basis until Election Day.

We will be doing editorial board meetings, and possibly editorial endorsements, for candidates in selected races, but we’re not going to start scheduling those until sometime next year. Likewise with general news stories about the races, other than short candidate declaration stories like we’ve done so far.

It may not be too early for the candidates to step forward, but it certainly feels a little bit too early for us to think about how to cover them.

You can reach Sean Scully at 256-2246 or sscully@napanews.com.



Sean has been editor of the Napa Valley Register since April of 2014. His previous credits include the Press Democrat, The Weekly Calistogan, The Washington Times and Time and People magazines.