It was still early on election night, somewhere around 8:30, but Sam Blakesleeâ€™s party was already in full swing.
Supporters for the Republican candidate for the state assemblyâ€™s 33rd District were packed into Corner View Restaurantâ€™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.
- 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.
â€œThe night is going perfectly,â€? his wife beamed.
Across town, Blakesleeâ€™s Green Party opponent, Tom Hutchings, was sitting with friends around food-strewn tables at Pepe Delgadoâ€™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.
â€œHeâ€™s a rat bastard!â€? 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.
â€œThis is stupid, why should we all take separate cars?â€? Hutchings remembers thinking. And so he, Blakeslee, and Libertarian candidate Gary Kirkland began sharing rides to forums.
â€œIt was so fun,â€? Hutchings said. â€œWe [would] talk a little about politics. We talked about families.â€?
That friendly feeling didnâ€™t seem to extend to Democrat Stew Jenkins â€” a fact that the candidate himself didnâ€™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.
- CHRISTOPHER GARDNER
- MAKING IT HAPPEN : While the countyâ€™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.
#â€œWeâ€™ll stay here as long as thereâ€™s food and fun,â€? he said. â€œThereâ€™s [thousands of] absentee ballots in this county and Santa Barbara County. So I donâ€™t think weâ€™re going to know for weeks.â€?
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 Januaryâ€™s battle over the state budget.
As for his favorite part of the campaign?
â€œTonight was my favorite part, without a doubt,â€? he said.
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.
â€œNervous?â€? he asked calmly, â€œabout losing the race? You know one time I was nervous. I was pretty confident going in because I knew he had no experience. Iâ€™m talking about [Dave] Booker now â€” [Matt] Mackey never really had a serious chance. One time I was really nervous when I realized he outspent me 2-1.â€?
But the mayorâ€™s nervousness, slight as it may have been, was no cause for real concern. Romero won the race for San Luis Obispoâ€™s top desk by a substantial margin. The man whoâ€™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.
â€œFar as Iâ€™m concerned,â€? he said, â€œif I were to lose, my life would still be good. It wouldnâ€™t be devastating. I like this. I like this job. I even like council meetings.â€?
Cal Poly student and unlikely candidate Matt Mackey managed to snag 20 percent of the final vote count. Mackey said heâ€™d wanted to beat David Booker and get between 3,500 and 5,000 votes. Although he didnâ€™t beat him he did get 3,591 votes â€” 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. Iâ€™m looking for more revenue for our city because the stateâ€™s been bleeding us dry for a long time.â€?
Romero also said he wouldnâ€™t like to see the voters vote down the market place referendum this spring.
â€œIf the voters vote it down,â€? he said, â€œthe developer will go to the county. It would have all the problems and none of the benefits and I think it would be disastrous.â€?
Mayor Romero seemed calm and confident as he leaned against the station wagon.
â€œIâ€™m not jumping around turning handsprings, but Iâ€™m feeling good,â€? he said. â€œI am excited.â€?
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 Qâ€™s rejection marks a sad day for local grassroots activists, but not an end to one of the countyâ€™s most hotly contested and emotionally charged issues.
â€œWeâ€™re not just going to sit back and take it,â€? said Mike Zelina, coordinator of the environmentally driven ballot measure.
- CHRISTOPHER GARDNER
- SLOâ€™S TOP DOG : Dave Romero will hold on to his seat as San Luis Obispoâ€™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 Qâ€™s incoming results were somewhat overshadowed by the announcement of Bushâ€™s consequential victory in Florida.
Despite their disappointment, the decidedly left-wing coalition of political activists did not see their measureâ€™s defeat as a total failure.
â€œWhat weâ€™ve done has opened the dialogue with farmers and all interested parties,â€? said Zelina. â€œWeâ€™ve accomplished a task that has eluded the press for eight years in this country.â€?
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 â€œall or nothingâ€? policy.
â€œWeâ€™d like to sit at the table and walk through this and learn,â€? she said. â€œYou need to be looking at a case-by-case assessment of these new crops.â€?
Instead, Crabb said, many people see this as a black-and-white issue.
â€œIt would be nice to remove the emotion and look at this objectively,â€? 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.
â€œWhen you bring [GE crops] into the county, you canâ€™t turn it around,â€? Leonard said. â€œThe board of supervisors can recall the measure at any time. We have the option.â€?
We can recall the measure, she said, but we canâ€™t recall GE pollen once itâ€™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 â€” never mind the fact that some 57,000 people had voted against them. Ultimately, the Q campaign did succeed in raising the countyâ€™s awareness of an exceedingly complex issue.
â€œThe more people learn about this, the more they want [GE crop regulations],â€? said Zelina. â€œSo weâ€™ve started down that road.â€?
one old for
SLOâ€™s city council
- 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 Obispoâ€™s city council. Both held victory parties blocks away from each other.
At Linnaeaâ€™s CafÃ© 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.
â€œIâ€™m very relaxed right now,â€? she said as she sipped coffee. â€œLet the chips fall where they may; Iâ€™ve done what I can. Iâ€™ve worked hard for four years. People know who I am. I have a record. They know what I stand for and if they donâ€™t they probably shouldnâ€™t be voting.â€?
The effervescent pro-slow-growth council member said she didnâ€™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.
â€œProjects come through the city and we have to deal with them as they come,â€? she said. â€œIâ€™m not in a rush to anything. Thereâ€™s the old saying, â€˜Donâ€™t just sit there; do something.â€™ I like to switch that on its head, â€˜Donâ€™t just do something â€¦ sit there.â€™â€?
Mulholland said we should hold out for whatâ€™s right for the community.
â€œWe donâ€™t have to do everything, we donâ€™t have to build out the whole general plan right now. We donâ€™t have to take everything. Weâ€™re highly desirable here, we can be picky.â€?
Meanwhile down Higuera Street, Paul Brown was reveling at his own Motherâ€™s Tavern, nervously scrawling through the clerk-recorderâ€™s web site to get up-to-the-minute results.
â€œThereâ€™s not one particular thing that I have a huge agenda for, other than I want to honor the people that voted for me,â€? he said as the pale glow from the computer screen reflected off of his face.
Before results started coming in, Brown â€” who lost a race for city council once before â€” said he felt like he was having a baby.
â€œIâ€™m ready for a big job,â€? he said anxiously. â€œI think Iâ€™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.â€?
Like a new father, Brownâ€™s excitement seemed to outweigh any of his worries.
â€œItâ€™s kind of like, â€˜What are you nervous about with your job?â€™â€? he asked, and then responded: â€œDoing a good job. Iâ€™m sure the first night Iâ€™ll be nervous, and over time Iâ€™ll get more comfortable with the job.â€?
â€” John Peabody
New Los Osos CSD members look to
The election of Julie Tacker and Lisa Schicker to the Los Osos Community Services District (CSD) Board could prolong one of the countyâ€™s longest and dirtiest controversies.
- CHRISTOPHER GARDNER
- SHOCK AND AWE : While Republicans at parties around the county were celebrating, Democrats â€” like these gathered at Peg Pinardâ€™s election night bash â€” quietly watched as several of their favorite candidates lost.
#Tacker and Schicker held their victory party at Jimmy Bumpâ€™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.
â€œAs a minority board member, I hope to make money the issue,â€? said Tacker, but she admits itâ€™s going to be an uphill battle, since the two women are opposed on the sewer issue by three more CSD members.
â€œWeâ€™re still a minority,â€? Schicker observed, â€œbut thereâ€™s such momentum. Now we have the votes to prove it.â€?
As for the three remaining board members, Tacker believes they can bring Hensley over to their side.
â€œWhen I look at his record and see what he stands for,â€? Tacker said, â€œthereâ€™s a glimmer of hope in my eye. If he doesnâ€™t come around, it could get worse before it gets better.â€?
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.
â€œThey put their differences aside to work with us,â€? 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 â€œat home in a fetal position with her thumb in her mouth.â€?
Tina Petersonâ€™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.
â€œItâ€™s the right sewer at the right place at the time,â€? 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.
will decide county supervisor race
As of press time, the race for San Luis Obispo Countyâ€™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.
â€œIâ€™ll probably get my computer and office set up. Then Iâ€™ll meet with the other board members,â€? he said. â€œI had the unprecedented support of the other board members, so I wonâ€™t have any lag time.â€?
He also seemed confident in his ability to carry out his duties as supervisor if elected: â€œI understand being supervisor is an awesome responsibility, and I want to assure the people who helped get me elected I will give 110 percent â€” they deserve nothing less,â€? he said.
Met by cheers and applause as she entered the patio of the Novo restaurant, Patty Andreenâ€™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 â€œWhat the World Needs Now.â€?
If the election had swung in her direction, Andreen had definite plans on how she would spend her first day in office.
â€œIâ€™ll smile all day long,â€? 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.
â€” 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-recorderâ€™s office scrambling for extra ballots this year. The Cal Poly precinct is where all Cal Poly students living on campus vote.
â€œIt was incredibly high,â€? said Julie Rodewald, SLO County clerk-recorder. â€œWe actually saw a huge surge in registrations there.
â€œFor 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.â€?
Itâ€™s likely that student candidate Matt Mackeyâ€™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.
â€œI feel like every vote I get is a vote I earned, not something Iâ€™ve stolen away from another candidate,â€? Mackey told New Times in October. â€œIâ€™m probably going after a base that wouldnâ€™t otherwise vote had I not been running.â€?
Although the mobilization of Mackeyâ€™s base was not enough to get him into office, it did take the clerk-recorderâ€™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.
â€œOnly those who live on campus vote on campus,â€? she said. â€œBut I know we actually had people who were going into that precinct to vote who were going there because it was convenient.â€?
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 Obispoâ€™s CafÃ© Roma, looking tired.
- CHRISTOPHER GARDNER
- SAD NIGHT : Despite earning massive financial support from her party and registering more Democrats than her opponent, Peg Pinardâ€™s race for the stateâ€™s 15th Senate district ended on election night.
#â€œSheâ€™d spent the day sprinting around her district, hustling votes with fellow Democrat Lois Capps. But while Cappsâ€™ numbers that night were cause for celebration, Pinardâ€™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 Pinardâ€™s face as she spoke to reporters.
â€œI canâ€™t control what my opponent did. But for myself, nothing. I wouldnâ€™t have changed anything,â€? she said. â€œIâ€™m working with the most incredible people here, they donâ€™t get any better than this.â€?
In Santa Maria at about the same time, the condition of Abel Maldonadoâ€™s voice spoke volumes about what sort of day â€” and campaign â€” heâ€™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.
â€œItâ€™s been a heck of a ride for me,â€? Maldonado rasped. â€œIâ€™ve been doing this for two years now.â€?
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?
â€œYes,â€? Maldonado said after a brief pause. â€œAbsolutely.â€?
He added that he didnâ€™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 Pinardâ€™s Sacramento supporters. He did, however, credit and thank his opponent from his victory podium.
â€œIt takes a lot to put your name on the ballot,â€? 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, â€œAbel for governor!â€? and â€œAbel for president!â€?
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.
â€œI didnâ€™t win with [just] Republican votes,â€? 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 donâ€™t know him as well as do constituents elsewhere, but he plans â€œto be everywhereâ€? in an effort to become a more familiar face.
Back up in San Luis Obispo, Pinard stood next to an uncut cake decorated with â€œPinard for Senateâ€? in red, white, and blue frosting. She was giving hugs to campaign workers but her supportersâ€™ 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.
â€œI canâ€™t believe this is happening,â€? she said.