For the crowd of Bruce Gibson supporters huddled in an automotive garage on the north end of Cayucos, Election Night offered steady reassurance.
Sneaking out ahead 52-48 with the absentee count, Gibson slowly widened the margin to claim a 13-point victory over former Morro Bay mayor Rodger Anderson in the contentious District 2 supervisor race. The final tally arrived just before 11 p.m.
In his victory speech, Gibson demurely jeered an advertisement that called into question his status as a farmer and painted the candidate as an "oil baron."
The 11th-hour flier, issued by his opponent, mentioned a chunk of Chevron and Conoco-Phillips stock owned by the candidate in 2005. Gibson voted on a project involving the California-based Chevron in February, a move that would have spelled a potentially illegal conflict of interest if Gibson had not dealt the shares a month before.
"That was a smear campaign, but it didn't work," said the supervisor-elect. "You try to go negative with no substance ... this is the wrong district for that."
Though it was a low-traffic Election Night for the county, the evening witnessed a fairly anti-climactic end to two intrinsically linked races the terse battle for District 2 and the scuffle over Measure J. Gibson strongly opposed the Dalidio initiative, while Anderson supported it.
Yet, from a greater scope, the supervisor race also represented a fight for control of the board overlooking a politically balanced county. Shirley Bianchi often occupied the left end of a seesaw, with James Patterson nearby, Harry Ovitt and Jerry Lenthall across the plane, and the moderate Katcho Achadjian firmly planted above the fulcrum.
Liberals particularly North Coast conservationists feared that a successful bid by the more development-friendly Anderson would upset this balance.
"My record is one of concern for the environment, concern for the community," Gibson said. "I think my voice would be more like Shirley [Bianchi]'s than Rodger's would have been.
"The voice for those kinds of issues needs to be on the board."
Bianchi formally endorsed Gibson throughout the race. The outgoing District 2 supe showed up to lend her final show of support and congratulate him on the victory. Bianchi held the seat since 1998, serving as a planning commissioner for eight years before that.
"She's an inspiration to a lot of folks in District 2 me included," Gibson said. "She's a woman who has accomplished a lot. I'm proud to have her endorse me. I'm proud to know her, and find out what is on her desk."
One of the things on Bianchi's desk proved a source of many headaches to the local lawmaker and virtually every official involved: the Los Osos sewer controversy. Gibson announced no position on the debate over engineering solutions, but recognized the challenges of presenting a project that would garner a favorable 218 vote among the economically diverse and traditionally finicky district ratepayers.
"It's going to be a big thing in the next few years," he commented. "We need to pick the best alternative and get it done. It's easy to talk about and hard to do."