News

Status quo wins!

New Times parties with the winners, cries with the losers, and dishes the dirt on election night’s drama

by

comment

It was still early on election night, somewhere around 8:30, but Sam Blakeslee’s party was already in full swing.

Supporters for the Republican candidate for the state assembly’s 33rd District were packed into Corner View Restaurant’s upper floor like so many absentee ballots in an Ohio ballot box. Wine was flowing; spirits were high; food was piled high on plates.

A WINNING PARTY :  Supporters of Sam Blakeslee, the Republican winner of the 33rd Assembly district race, gathered early at Corner View Restaurant in San Luis Obispo to celebrate. - CHRISTOPHER GARDNER
  • CHRISTOPHER GARDNER
  • A WINNING PARTY : Supporters of Sam Blakeslee, the Republican winner of the 33rd Assembly district race, gathered early at Corner View Restaurant in San Luis Obispo to celebrate.

#In one corner, a television blared coverage of the national races. A few feet away, three Blakeslee supporters huddled over a laptop that was delivering the good news: Only 22 of the 160 precincts had reported, but Blakeslee already had a massive lead.

Downstairs, Blakeslee and his wife held onto their kids while they fielded questions from reports.

“The night is going perfectly,� his wife beamed.

Across town, Blakeslee’s Green Party opponent, Tom Hutchings, was sitting with friends around food-strewn tables at Pepe Delgado’s restaurant.

Despite the fact that Hutchings was in distant third place by that time in the night, he was in a good mood. When he heard that Blakeslee had been complimenting him, his eyes twinkled.

“He’s a rat bastard!� he shouted, laughing.

Hutchings and Blakeslee make strange bedfellows, but over the course of the race they formed what looked like an actual friendship. For much of the race, the two men actually carpooled to election events together.

“This is stupid, why should we all take separate cars?� Hutchings remembers thinking. And so he, Blakeslee, and Libertarian candidate Gary Kirkland began sharing rides to forums.

“It was so fun,� Hutchings said. “We [would] talk a little about politics. We talked about families.�

That friendly feeling didn’t seem to extend to Democrat Stew Jenkins — a fact that the candidate himself didn’t mention at his own party at Oasis on Higuera.

Instead, he focused on the fact that he was having a good time at his decidedly mellow party and that he was happy with the voter turnout.

MAKING IT HAPPEN :  While the county’s clerk-recorder, Julie Rodewald, could have been the most stressed person in the county on election night, she calmly traveled between her office and the county courthouse, announcing new developments as poll workers collected and counted votes. - CHRISTOPHER GARDNER
  • CHRISTOPHER GARDNER
  • MAKING IT HAPPEN : While the county’s clerk-recorder, Julie Rodewald, could have been the most stressed person in the county on election night, she calmly traveled between her office and the county courthouse, announcing new developments as poll workers collected and counted votes.

#“We’ll stay here as long as there’s food and fun,� he said. “There’s [thousands of] absentee ballots in this county and Santa Barbara County. So I don’t think we’re going to know for weeks.�

While Jenkins might have been willing to wait for the final count, by 10 p.m. over at the Corner View party no one had any doubt who the winner was.

The candidate-elect was still shaking hands and beaming from ear to ear as waiters cleared the empty food trays away. He looked tired from the long day and the wine but he was eager to talk about his plans for January’s battle over the state budget.

As for his favorite part of the campaign?

“Tonight was my favorite part, without a doubt,� he said.

—Abraham Hyatt

 

Romero holds on
to SLO mayor seat

While his victory party was winding down, with only a few guests left huddled around a TV, incumbent Mayor Dave Romero leaned on the hood of an old station wagon in the parking garage at the Sands Motel.

“Nervous?� he asked calmly, “about losing the race? You know one time I was nervous. I was pretty confident going in because I knew he had no experience. I’m talking about [Dave] Booker now — [Matt] Mackey never really had a serious chance. One time I was really nervous when I realized he outspent me 2-1.�

But the mayor’s nervousness, slight as it may have been, was no cause for real concern. Romero won the race for San Luis Obispo’s top desk by a substantial margin. The man who’s held the job for two years will return and serve for the next two years to advance his 20-year plan for the city.

“Far as I’m concerned,� he said, “if I were to lose, my life would still be good. It wouldn’t be devastating. I like this. I like this job. I even like council meetings.�

Cal Poly student and unlikely candidate Matt Mackey managed to snag 20 percent of the final vote count. Mackey said he’d wanted to beat David Booker and get between 3,500 and 5,000 votes. Although he didn’t beat him he did get 3,591 votes — about 1,300 less than Booker.

With more time to further his agenda, Romero says the city needs to secure more revenue.

"The big issue is proposition 1A, which will stabilize the state take-always. I’m looking for more revenue for our city because the state’s been bleeding us dry for a long time.�

Romero also said he wouldn’t like to see the voters vote down the market place referendum this spring.

“If the voters vote it down,� he said, “the developer will go to the county. It would have all the problems and none of the benefits and I think it would be disastrous.�

Mayor Romero seemed calm and confident as he leaned against the station wagon.

“I’m not jumping around turning handsprings, but I’m feeling good,� he said. “I am excited.�

—John Peabody

 

GE skeptics stand firm as voters bulldoze Measure Q

The defeat of Measure Q by a margin of 59 to 41 percent means that the county of San Luis Obispo will not ban the cultivation of genetically engineered (GE) crops. Measure Q’s rejection marks a sad day for local grassroots activists, but not an end to one of the county’s most hotly contested and emotionally charged issues.

“We’re not just going to sit back and take it,� said Mike Zelina, coordinator of the environmentally driven ballot measure.

SLO’S TOP DOG :  Dave Romero will hold on to his seat as San Luis Obispo’s mayor after beating his two challengers: David Booker and college student Matt Mackey. - CHRISTOPHER GARDNER
  • CHRISTOPHER GARDNER
  • SLO’S TOP DOG : Dave Romero will hold on to his seat as San Luis Obispo’s mayor after beating his two challengers: David Booker and college student Matt Mackey.

#Gathered in the back room of the Old Cayucos Tavern, Measure Q supporters watched the election returns on an overhead projection as they were tallied via the Internet. The mood was one of melancholy determination, as Measure Q’s incoming results were somewhat overshadowed by the announcement of Bush’s consequential victory in Florida.

Despite their disappointment, the decidedly left-wing coalition of political activists did not see their measure’s defeat as a total failure.

“What we’ve done has opened the dialogue with farmers and all interested parties,� said Zelina. “We’ve accomplished a task that has eluded the press for eight years in this country.�

Before the election, Jackie Crabb, executive director of the SLO Farm Bureau and spokeswoman for the No on Measure Q campaign, criticized Q proponents for drawing up the initiative without consulting or collaborating with the entire local farm community. She questioned how Q supporters could claim to speak for the farmers without working with the established agricultural industry.

Crabb also expressed concern over the broad, sweeping nature of the measure, what she called an “all or nothing� policy.

“We’d like to sit at the table and walk through this and learn,� she said. “You need to be looking at a case-by-case assessment of these new crops.�

Instead, Crabb said, many people see this as a black-and-white issue.

“It would be nice to remove the emotion and look at this objectively,� she added.

Many critics of the measure have also shown concern over the permanence of the GE ban; the fact that it lacked a sunset clause.

Miranda Leonard, an environmental educator and spokeswoman for Yes on Q, was quick to point out an important flaw in this criticism.

“When you bring [GE crops] into the county, you can’t turn it around,� Leonard said. “The board of supervisors can recall the measure at any time. We have the option.�

We can recall the measure, she said, but we can’t recall GE pollen once it’s released into the environment.

As the results rolled in on the big screen, the ever-optimistic Q supporters were happy to announce that their measure had actually won a whopping 40,000 votes — never mind the fact that some 57,000 people had voted against them. Ultimately, the Q campaign did succeed in raising the county’s awareness of an exceedingly complex issue.

“The more people learn about this, the more they want [GE crop regulations],� said Zelina. “So we’ve started down that road.�

—Jeff Hornaday

 

One new,
one old for
SLO’s city council

PARTY NIGHT :  Election night was the night for political junkies to show their colors, and Democrat activist Harlan Hobgood was no exception. - CHRISTOPHER GARDNER
  • CHRISTOPHER GARDNER
  • PARTY NIGHT : Election night was the night for political junkies to show their colors, and Democrat activist Harlan Hobgood was no exception.

#Voters reaffirmed their confidence in incumbent Christine Mulholland and gave the nod to newcomer Paul Brown this year for San Luis Obispo’s city council. Both held victory parties blocks away from each other.

At Linnaea’s Café in San Luis 0bispo, a small television broadcast the results of the presidential election. Even without up-to-the-minute Internet updates on her own race, Mulholland was confident.

“I’m very relaxed right now,� she said as she sipped coffee. “Let the chips fall where they may; I’ve done what I can. I’ve worked hard for four years. People know who I am. I have a record. They know what I stand for and if they don’t they probably shouldn’t be voting.�

The effervescent pro-slow-growth council member said she didn’t see any specific plan that she wanted to push through in the next four years. Instead, she said, she prefers to take it as it comes.

“Projects come through the city and we have to deal with them as they come,� she said. “I’m not in a rush to anything. There’s the old saying, ‘Don’t just sit there; do something.’ I like to switch that on its head, ‘Don’t just do something … sit there.’�

Mulholland said we should hold out for what’s right for the community.

“We don’t have to do everything, we don’t have to build out the whole general plan right now. We don’t have to take everything. We’re highly desirable here, we can be picky.�

Meanwhile down Higuera Street, Paul Brown was reveling at his own Mother’s Tavern, nervously scrawling through the clerk-recorder’s web site to get up-to-the-minute results.

“There’s not one particular thing that I have a huge agenda for, other than I want to honor the people that voted for me,� he said as the pale glow from the computer screen reflected off of his face.

Before results started coming in, Brown — who lost a race for city council once before — said he felt like he was having a baby.

“I’m ready for a big job,� he said anxiously. “I think I’ll bring a fresh perspective. My age, being 36 years old, will help bridge the gap between the two populations [old and young]. I understand both their issues.�

Like a new father, Brown’s excitement seemed to outweigh any of his worries.

“It’s kind of like, ‘What are you nervous about with your job?’� he asked, and then responded: “Doing a good job. I’m sure the first night I’ll be nervous, and over time I’ll get more comfortable with the job.�

 

— John Peabody

 

New Los Osos CSD members look to
block sewer

The election of Julie Tacker and Lisa Schicker to the Los Osos Community Services District (CSD) Board could prolong one of the county’s longest and dirtiest controversies.

SHOCK AND AWE :  While Republicans at parties around the county were celebrating, Democrats — like these gathered at Peg Pinard’s election night bash — quietly watched as several of their favorite candidates lost. - CHRISTOPHER GARDNER
  • CHRISTOPHER GARDNER
  • SHOCK AND AWE : While Republicans at parties around the county were celebrating, Democrats — like these gathered at Peg Pinard’s election night bash — quietly watched as several of their favorite candidates lost.

#Tacker and Schicker held their victory party at Jimmy Bump’s Pasta House in Los Osos, where they mingled with friends and family as the televisions announced their landslide victory over Tina Peterson.

Schicker led the election with 42.82 percent of the votes, with Tacker close behind at 33.7, and Peterson trailing at 21.56 percent. Both women are now confident that the one-sided election results will serve as a mandate for the movement to relocate the sewer.

By defeating Peterson and filling the two vacant seats left by directors Bob Semonson and Rosemary Bowker, Tacker and Schicker will sit alongside three other members, President Stan Gustafson, Vice President Gordon Hensley, and Director Richard LeGros, who have all supported the current sewer plan.

“As a minority board member, I hope to make money the issue,� said Tacker, but she admits it’s going to be an uphill battle, since the two women are opposed on the sewer issue by three more CSD members.

“We’re still a minority,� Schicker observed, “but there’s such momentum. Now we have the votes to prove it.�

As for the three remaining board members, Tacker believes they can bring Hensley over to their side.

“When I look at his record and see what he stands for,� Tacker said, “there’s a glimmer of hope in my eye. If he doesn’t come around, it could get worse before it gets better.�

In the last weeks and days leading up to the election, Tacker and Schicker, who had campaigned together, witnessed a wave of support that even bridged the gap between supporters of Bush and Kerry.

“They put their differences aside to work with us,� Tacker gloated, and the unity of Democrats and Republicans in the pasta house confirmed it.

A founding member of Concerned Citizens of Los Osos (CCLO), Tacker dropped out of the group in order to run for office, citing an important conflict of interest. The CCLO is involved in lawsuit against the CSD, demanding the board to reconsider the viability of the current sewer project. The lawsuit accuses the services district of approving the sewer prematurely, without adequate consideration of alternative locations.

Supporters of the sewer claim that its downtown location will limit the growth of Los Osos, but Tacker scoffed at that logic. She said that the planned sewer is already 33 percent too big, and that it will handle growth. Furthermore, they will always have the option to build a second sewer if the community continues to grow.

When asked by a fellow reveler where Peterson was spending election night, Tacker speculated that she was “at home in a fetal position with her thumb in her mouth.�

Tina Peterson’s campaign looked beyond the sewer project, trying to invalidate it as an issue. She believed that nothing could be accomplished in Los Osos until the sewer is over and done.

“It’s the right sewer at the right place at the time,� Peterson said before the election.

Peterson focused her campaign on other plans to develop the community, including moving forward with plans to build a public swimming pool, a greater Community Center, and other facilities for children and seniors.

Following the election, Peterson was unavailable for comment.

 

—Jeff Hornaday

 

Absentee ballots
will decide county supervisor race

As of press time, the race for San Luis Obispo County’s 3rd District supervisor seat was still too close to call: Jerry Lenthall had 9,587 votes while Patty Andreen was nipping at his heels with 9,331.

But on election night, both candidates knew exactly what they would do on the first day of their potentially new job.

Wearing a chambray shirt and khaki pants, Lenthall seemed more like a nervous schoolboy than candidate for supervisor as he awaited the election results with family and friends in the wine cellar of the Madonna Inn.

His first priority if he takes office will be worrying about the more basic necessities of the political life.

“I’ll probably get my computer and office set up. Then I’ll meet with the other board members,� he said. “I had the unprecedented support of the other board members, so I won’t have any lag time.�

He also seemed confident in his ability to carry out his duties as supervisor if elected: “I understand being supervisor is an awesome responsibility, and I want to assure the people who helped get me elected I will give 110 percent — they deserve nothing less,� he said.

Met by cheers and applause as she entered the patio of the Novo restaurant, Patty Andreen’s black attire did not reflect her upbeat attitude, even though early election results showed Lenthall in the lead.

In the background, local band Earth and Moon was playing “What the World Needs Now.�

If the election had swung in her direction, Andreen had definite plans on how she would spend her first day in office.

“I’ll smile all day long,� she said. Then, like Lenthall, she too will go around and meet everyone and start studying the issues.

The race should be decided sometime this week after county election officials tally up about 20,000 still-outstanding absentee ballots.

— Brenda Wiley

 

 

Cal Poly turnout
surprises election officials

An unusually high voter turnout at the Cal Poly voting precinct left the San Luis Obispo clerk-recorder’s office scrambling for extra ballots this year. The Cal Poly precinct is where all Cal Poly students living on campus vote.

“It was incredibly high,� said Julie Rodewald, SLO County clerk-recorder. “We actually saw a huge surge in registrations there.

“For instance, we do our ballot order based on our 60-day numbers, and then when we saw all the registrations coming in over the next couple of weeks we actually ordered an additional 400 ballots for that precinct, but it just continued to increase.�

It’s likely that student candidate Matt Mackey’s run for San Luis Obispo mayor was responsible for the increased Cal Poly turnout. Throughout his campaign, Mackey focused his attention on turning out the college-student vote.

“I feel like every vote I get is a vote I earned, not something I’ve stolen away from another candidate,� Mackey told New Times in October. “I’m probably going after a base that wouldn’t otherwise vote had I not been running.�

Although the mobilization of Mackey’s base was not enough to get him into office, it did take the clerk-recorder’s office by surprise; they had to bring additional absentee ballots to Cal Poly to accommodate the unexpected turnout. Rodewald estimates that they brought an additional 100 ballots.

“Only those who live on campus vote on campus,� she said. “But I know we actually had people who were going into that precinct to vote who were going there because it was convenient.�

—John Peabody

 

Maldonado roars
past Pinard to win state Senate seat

By 10:15 on election night, Peg Pinard was wandering around her small party in the basement of San Luis Obispo’s Café Roma, looking tired.

SAD NIGHT :  Despite earning massive financial support from her party and registering more Democrats than her opponent, Peg Pinard’s race for the state’s 15th Senate district ended on election night. - CHRISTOPHER GARDNER
  • CHRISTOPHER GARDNER
  • SAD NIGHT : Despite earning massive financial support from her party and registering more Democrats than her opponent, Peg Pinard’s race for the state’s 15th Senate district ended on election night.

#“She’d spent the day sprinting around her district, hustling votes with fellow Democrat Lois Capps. But while Capps’ numbers that night were cause for celebration, Pinard’s opponent, Republican Abel Maldonado, had already captured 50 percent of the vote in the race for the 15th District senate seat.

While she tried to sound optimistic when asked what she would have changed in her campaign, those numbers were reflected in Pinard’s face as she spoke to reporters.

“I can’t control what my opponent did. But for myself, nothing. I wouldn’t have changed anything,� she said. “I’m working with the most incredible people here, they don’t get any better than this.�

In Santa Maria at about the same time, the condition of Abel Maldonado’s voice spoke volumes about what sort of day — and campaign — he’d had.

Though his standard smile was undimmed when he stepped into the Santa Maria Inn after 10:30 p.m., his words were strained and hoarse, run ragged from hours of speaking in Monterey and Santa Cruz before his trek down the coast to celebrate in Santa Maria.

“It’s been a heck of a ride for me,� Maldonado rasped. “I’ve been doing this for two years now.�

Those two years culminated in what many voters believed to be an unusually expensive race marked with mudslinging from both sides. For his share, Maldonado and his supporters spent about $2 million to get him elected.

And was it worth it?

“Yes,� Maldonado said after a brief pause. “Absolutely.�

He added that he didn’t like the negative tone of the campaign, but had to defend himself from the several-million-dollar attack mounted on him from Democrat Peg Pinard’s Sacramento supporters. He did, however, credit and thank his opponent from his victory podium.

“It takes a lot to put your name on the ballot,� he said.

Throughout his teary-eyed official greeting, Maldonado also thanked everyone from his wife and parents to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. In response, the crowd cheered and clapped, and sporadically shouted, “Abel for governor!� and “Abel for president!�

He then wandered in a hand-shaking haze while his media director, Tom Kise, led him in front of TV cameras and handed him cell phones with reporters waiting on the other end. He stopped pacing and patting long enough to watch the John Kerry camp declare that it would fight for every vote, with Bush at 269 and Kerry at 238 electoral votes.

While his Republican supporters made snide remarks about vice presidential candidate John Edwards in the background, Maldonado likened his campaign to a job application process. Tonight, he said, the voters offered him the job. And he was happy to accept.

He credited Gov. Schwarzenegger and Sen. Bruce McPherson with boosts toward his victory, and pointed out that he pulled in a lot more than his party to clinch the lead.

“I didn’t win with [just] Republican votes,� he said, nodding to the Democrats and others who put their faith in him to represent the diverse 15th Senate district. He admitted that people in the north part of the district don’t know him as well as do constituents elsewhere, but he plans “to be everywhere� in an effort to become a more familiar face.

Back up in San Luis Obispo, Pinard stood next to an uncut cake decorated with “Pinard for Senate� in red, white, and blue frosting. She was giving hugs to campaign workers but her supporters’ attention was no longer focused on the local results projected on a big screen or even on Peg herself.

Instead, Democrats had circled around the one television in the room, their worried faces bathed in the flickering light of the national results.

One woman turned away from the screen and walked away past crumb-covered tables.

“I can’t believe this is happening,� she said.

Tags

Add a comment