SLO special election: it's Christianson for the win


The democratic process of a citywide mail-in ballot special election can never compete with the organized chaos of a regularly scheduled general election.

Still, this New Times reporter expected some kind of exciting climax to yet another campaign season that sometimes reached that level of contention.

But once I got to City Hall a little after 6 p.m., City Clerk Maeve Grimes was chipping away quietly in the clerk’s office in an otherwise nearly empty building. Though it was a very busy day, this was the eye of the storm, she told me, before the last panicked rush to submit a ballot by the 8 p.m. deadline, when they start counting ballots and announcing precincts.

I waited around, and slowly people started coming in at about 8 p.m., including candidates Don Hedrick, Paul Brown, and about seven or eight of their entourage, including Council member Kathy Smith. Christianson’s people—including Mayor Jan Marx and Marx’s husband—arrived, as well, but not Christianson.

Soon, the 10 or so volunteers and the city’s consultants began churning out results, at first by single precincts. Brown took an early lead, staying roughly a hundred votes ahead of Christianson, and he paced back and forth as the results came in.

“I’m not sure if I prefer [the results] all at once or coming in like this,” Brown said. “I don’t think I ever need to go to the doctor again if I can survive this.”

I hung out with Tribune reporter AnnMarie Cornejo—who was on a much earlier deadline than I was—when Marx asked us to repeat the results so she could text them to Christianson and her party at Novo.

Soon the later precincts were counted and the Brown camp grew quiet as Grimes revealed that Christianson had taken the lead—by a hefty margin. Subsequent reports only solidified that lead.

After all the votes were counted, the winner was clear: it was Christianson with a solid 48 percent of the vote. In the end, 4,138 voters cast ballots for Christianson, 3,371 for Brown, and 217 for Hedrick.

Despite the fact that there were still roughly 500 last-minute ballots to be counted, Brown conceded to his opponent.

“The tough part is putting yourself out there, but I’m glad I did it and I still stand for the issues I ran on,” Brown told New Times. “I don’t take this as a personal reflection and I’m proud of the efforts of my team and those who supported me.

“I wouldn’t have put myself out there if I didn’t believe how important this election is,” he added before we parted ways.

“I told the story, and I had the most fun of my life,” Hedrick told one of Brown’s supporters as everybody cleared out.

Following my discussion with Brown, I headed off to Novo restaurant, hoping to catch Christianson before everyone left. Of course, when I descended the stairs to the intimately lit reception room, it looked like the party was just getting started.

County Supervisor Adam Hill and CAPSLO Executive Director Dee Torres were there, as were Marx and her husband; Councilman John Ashbaugh; and Pat Harris, chair of the SLO County Democratic Party, along with about 20 or so other Democratic party volunteers and Christianson supporters.

Somebody cracks that they’d better all watch what they say—there’s a reporter here. Nice one, person I couldn’t identify. Never heard that one before.

But Christianson spotted me from across the room and graciously waved me over. After congratulating her, I asked how she felt the election went.

“I was really pleased to see Paul and I run a really clean campaign,” she said. “It’s clear that we both have a lot of respect and goodwill toward our community.”

When asked what’s next for her—like, in the next day or two—she said she is looking forward to waking up the next day without any campaigning to be done. Her current term will end in December 2014.

“This was a long, hard haul,” she said. 

Add a comment