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Ray to challenge Hill for Arroyo Grande mayor

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Arroyo Grande Mayor Jim Hill will once again have to defend his seat from a challenger in November, this time from a member of his own City Council.

Councilmember Caren Ray announced that she will run for mayor in the Nov. 6 election. In a written statement, Ray said that she decided to run after "tremendous encouragement" from residents and elected officials.

"Arroyo Grande is an amazing town, but it's in need of effective leadership," Ray said in the statement.

Ray previously served on the council in 2010, when she was appointed to fill a vacancy left by the resignation of a council member. She was elected to the seat in 2012, then left in 2013 after Gov. Jerry Brown selected her to fill the SLO County Board of Supervisors' 4th District seat after the death of Paul Tiexeira. In the 2014 election, Ray lost the seat to current 4th District Supervisor Lynn Compton. Ray was elected to her current seat on the council in November 2016.

Hill is finishing out his second two-year term as mayor. He was first elected in 2014 as a write-in candidate. Hill was re-elected in 2016, garnering 60 percent of the vote to beat his challenger, Richard Waller.

In 2017, Hill clashed with some members of the council when they voted to open an independent investigation into misconduct allegations against Hill as mayor and as a board member for the South County Sanitation District. In part, the investigation's findings stated that there was sufficient evidence to show that Hill overstepped the bounds of his role as a mayor when he sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission without consulting other members of the council, and raised concerns that Hill's wife, Lin, may have had access to his city email account and iPad. Hill claims that the investigation was politically motivated.

In an email to New Times, Hill confirmed that he plans to run for a third term.

Ray's announcement included endorsements from current Councilmember Kristen Barneich and former Councilmember Jim Gutherie.

"Caren understands difficult issues and finds a path to consensus that gets results, and results matter," Guthrie said.

In addition to the mayor's race, two City Council seats—currently occupied by members Tim Brown and Barbara Harmon—will also be up for election. The nomination period for all three races begins July 16 and ends Aug. 10. Δ

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Ray was appointed to replace a retiring member of the city council. That member resigned. Ray was also elected to the seat in 2012, not 2013.

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