The Napa Valley’s future as the Eden of America has been plunged into doubt as an arch-Republican wins local power amidst accusations of voter fraud.
Earlier this year conservationist and Democrat Mike Rippey lost his seat on the Napa Board Of Supervisors to Harold Moskowite, third generation rancher and avowedly anti-regulation.
Now Rippey is suing his opponent and another official, alleging badly-calibrated counting machines, and tampering with ballot papers.
Moscowite claims he is baffled. ‘I didn’t steal anything,’ he told the New York Times. ‘I’m an honest person.’
Napa County has 131,000 residents, and some of the most sought-after agricultural land in the world. It is a paradise of ultra-expensive vineyards, next door to the severely-overpopulated San Francisco Bay Area.
The region is constantly under threat from developers but its long-established and draconian planning laws keep them in check.
The Board’s five supervisors control planning and development in Napa – one of the least-developed rural areas in the country. Moskowite’s unseating of Rippey causes his critics to ‘shudder’, according to the Times.
Fourteen years ago, the paper reports, Moscowite campaigned for a new highway through the hills. It wasn’t successful, but memories are long.
‘This is more than a setback,’ Rippey supporter Moira Johnson Block said, ‘It’s a lightning strike. A fireball. It’s a war of values we thought we had won.’
Rippey, who had sat on the board for 12 years, was allegedly so confident of success he didn’t hire a campaign manager.
The Board has its critics. Before Moscowite’s victory, two of the five supervisors had declared support for more development, claiming the rights of property owners were being trampled.
Written by Adam Lechmere