It’s one down, two to go for the highly coveted San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisor seats up for election this year.
Two incumbents were looking to keep their seats, and 5th District Supervisor Debbie Arnold got her wish, garnering more than 50 percent of the vote in the two-person, winner-take-all primary. Third District Supervisor Adam Hill, who needed a simple majority to win outright, wasn’t so lucky after his challengers Dan Carpenter and Debbie Peterson pulled enough votes away in the three-person showdown. Hill and Carpenter will go toe-to-toe into November.
The one open seat, which currently belongs to retiring 1st District Supervisor Frank Mecham, is still up for grabs. Four men vied for that seat, and only two—John Peschong and Steve Martin—will advance.
While the results noted below aren’t final, they are decisive enough to be all-but-conclusive.
District 1: As of press time, in the contest for the 1st District Supervisor seat, John Peschong, a longtime Republican political consultant, led the pack with 45.61 percent of the vote. Paso Robles Mayor Steve Martin trailed with 35.19 percent.
The two will advance, leaving Paso Robles City Councilmember John Hamon in third with 16.05 percent of the vote and retiring attorney Dale Gustin bringing up the rear with 2.86 percent.
The results didn’t come as a surprise to those closely watching the race, and now the real contest begins. The race’s outcome could potentially bring a 3-2 voting majority to the board. Peschong is closely aligned with Supervisors Debbie Arnold and Lynn Compton, while Steve Martin, a moderate Democrat, could either fill Mecham’s shoes as a swing vote, or become aligned with Supervisors Hill—should he win—and Bruce Gibson.
Still, the race for the 1st District seat—which started a year ago after Mecham announced his retirement—has stayed cordial and issue-oriented thus far.
Both Peschong and Martin said they appreciate that spirit, and hope it continues.
Peschong said he and Martin differ on many of the key issues for voters—including taxes and how to manage the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin—and it should make for a good debate.
“I think that we can do that in a respectful tone as we go around and talk about the merits that support our positions, and I’m looking forward to that,” Peschong said.
He’s said throughout his campaign that his positions resonate with the district more than any other candidate. He’s looking to capitalize on the district’s skewed voter base, which has a 20 percent Republican advantage.
Still, Martin said his experience as mayor and other community involvement make him the more qualified candidate.
“I think people know me to be a reasonable person, a person that’s logical in decision making, and someone that’s thoughtful,” Martin said, adding that his campaign doesn’t intend to wade into the mud. “I’m looking forward to running a strong and civil discourse campaign.”
District 3: In the 3rd District Supervisor race, preliminary voting numbers indicate that incumbent Adam Hill failed to get the 50 percent of the vote he needed to skip the general election and retain his seat.
Hill snagged a little more than 42.26 percent of the vote, with the remainder split between his two opponents, SLO City Councilman Dan Carpenter and former Grover Beach Mayor Debbie Peterson.
Hill, who said he mostly spent a “low-key” primary night watching a baseball game, said he wasn’t surprised with the results, given the nature of a three-way race.
“It’s about what we expected,” Hill said.
While Hill said he felt confident that he’d beat Carpenter—who received 31.23 percent of the vote—in a two-way battle, Carpenter said he planned an “aggressive” strategy to court Peterson’s voters, who made up about 26.27 percent of the total vote, according to the preliminary results.
“It looks like 58 percent of the people rejected [Hill],” Carpenter said.
In a crowded room at the San Luis Business Center, Carpenter was surrounded by a celebratory crowd of supporters that included familiar staples from SLO city politics (his primary base), SLO City Council hopefuls Brett Strickland and Mike Clark, and a few of the county’s conservative and anti-Hill stalwarts, including former Congresswoman Andrea Seastrand, an active member of the Central Coastal Taxpayers Association. They all appeared eager to take this to November.
“We’re ready to keep moving and keep the momentum up,” Carpenter said, noting it was time to expand his base and bring in some money. “We need a lot more support and a lot more volunteers, because at this point I will have proven to people that I can win.”
District 5: At 8:30 p.m. on June 7, SLO County 5th District supervisor challenger Eric Michielssen stood up to address supporters at his election night party in Atascadero.
Bad news had just arrived: The mail-in ballots indicated that the incumbent, Debbie Arnold, was leading the race by 9 percentage points.
“I expect better news in the next announcement. We can win this thing!” Michielssen cried, to cheers from the patio at Street Side Ale House.
Better news never came for the Michielssen camp, a ragtag group of community members who’ve grown discontented with Arnold’s leadership.
Both Arnold and Jordan Cunningham, a candidate for California’s 35th Assembly District, gathered with their supporters at her campaign headquarters, as families huddled around a television screen watching the results. The conversation stayed bubbly and positive as the updated results showed her in the lead.
By the end of the night, the incumbent all but locked up a second term as a SLO County supervisor. As of press time, Arnold had won more than 53 percent of voters to Michielssen’s 47 percent, according to preliminary totals.
With only two candidates, the race was, as expected, a decisive election night for the District 5 seat.
Michielssen thanked his supporters and team of volunteers for their help running a campaign that hoped to upend an established incumbent. It was Michielssen’s first run at public office.
“I was so pleased with our campaign team,” Michielssen told New Times. “We were a grassroots effort the whole way. It was pretty amazing.”
As of press time, Arnold did not return a New Times phone call.