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Change, change, change

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Here’s what the people of San Luis Obispo County said with their votes on Election Day. (Positions and the names of winners are listed in bold.)

In San Luis Obispo City, voters returned Mayor Dave Romero to office but gave him a somewhat different council that he predicts will be more resistant to commercial growth than the current council.

“I think the complexion of the council has changed quite a bit by this election,” Romero said. “We will be a much slower growth council.”

THE ACT :  Poll worker Karen Poling helps Ken Pettit complete voting on Election Day. Few problems were reported at area polling places. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • THE ACT : Poll worker Karen Poling helps Ken Pettit complete voting on Election Day. Few problems were reported at area polling places.

He said the new council could also put speedbumps in the way of two major downtown projects, the Garden Street Terraces project, and the Chinatown project.

Former councilmember Jan Marx and Planning Commissioner John Ashbaugh will take seats on the council, taking the seats of Christine Mulholland, who was forced out by term limits, and Paul Brown, the owner of Mother’s Tavern. Romero said he thinks Brown lost largely because he came to be opposed by unions for police and firefighters after Brown took a public stance against binding arbitration, a process that allows public safety unions to take contract disputes to an outside party. A recent police pay award has left the city’s budget in disarray.

Romero said he knows and respects both new members but he cautioned that collectively the council will be forced to address steep economic challenges facing the city.

“I’m looking for us to try to resolve our really tough financial situation in the next few years, that’s really the message we’re trying to get across.”

Ashbaugh said he shares that goal, and, citing his record on the Planning Commission, said Romero shouldn’t be concerned that he will be anti-growth.

“I think we’ll give projects the scrutiny that they deserve but ; I think in this climate, in this economy, I for one intend to be a cheerleader for the kind of smart-growth projects we need.”

SLO’s Measure E-08, with charter revisions, passed while Atascadero’s Wal-Mart-aimed D-08, limiting the size of big-box stores, failed.

In Pismo Beach, Mayor Mary Ann Reiss decisively defeated councilmember Bill Rabenaldt and Grover Beach Mayor John Shoals won just as soundly over Chuck Ashton.

Other mayoral races weren’t as decisive.

In Morro Bay, Mayor Janice Peters was narrowly leading in her bid for reelection over challenger George Leage, by 48 votes, while council seats there were won by Noah Smukler and Carla Borchard.

In Paso Robles, the battle for an open mayoral seat had Ed Waage narrowly leading Ted Ehring. Fred Strong and Nick Gilman won council seats.

In Cambria, Community Service District seats were won by Muril Clift, Frank DeMicco, and Allan MacKinnon, marking a new direction for a board torn by water rate decisions.

Los Osos C.S.D. seats were won by Marshall Ochylski and Maria Kelly.

In the 23rd Congressional District race, Democratic Rep. Lois Capps cruised to victory against Republican opponent Matt Kokkonen, who centered his campaign on a push to increase offshore oil drilling.

Capps raced through her long, narrow district on Election Day, starting and ending in Santa Barbara.

In Santa Maria, she stopped by the Democratic headquarters on Plaza Drive, where volunteers were busy working the phones reminding Democrats to vote. But they didn’t have to work too hard.

“We’re getting either ‘We’re going to vote’ or ‘We have already voted,’” said Roger Hart, vice president of the Santa Maria Valley Democratic Club. “I think a lot of people voted early.”

Capps, the incumbent in the 23rd Congressional District, said she received a great amount of support for her campaign, but was overwhelmed by the support for getting voters to the polls in general.

“It’s very heartening to see people turn to democracy as a way to get their problems solved,” she said.

Kokkonen took his loss in stride, telling supporters as the results came in that 41 percent is a “tremendously good” start in a district that was stacked against him from voter registrations alone.

Ultimately, Capps took 69.04 percent of the votes in Santa Barbara County, Kokkonen 30.81. In San Luis Obispo County, Capps received 61.46 percent of the vote, Kokkonen 38.4.

What about the close contests? For the latest information, check the SLO County Clerk-Recorder’s website, slocounty.ca.gov/clerk.

Clerk-Recorder Julie Rodewald said in a statement she expected to know the number of vote-by-mail ballots and provisional ballots remaining in each contest—information that could tell whether trailing candidates still have a chance—by Thursday, Nov. 6. Why so long? “We cannot hurry this process and do the job with which we are entrusted.”

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