County elections officials say we may have to wait for results of close races

County officials say accuracy is more important than speed in tallying up votes, possibly delaying results

bcuddy@thetribunenews.comNovember 4, 2012 

Election Day is Tuesday, but the results of tight local races might not be known on election night.

Although more than half of county residents will cast vote-by-mail ballots, and many have been turned in already, the volume and closeness of certain races could push the results beyond Tuesday night, county Clerk-Recorder Julie Rodewald said.

“We are expecting close races and ... they will have to wait for us to complete the counting,” Rodewald said. “Accuracy is more important to us than speed.”

This election will be heavily vote-by-mail.

As of Friday morning, Rodewald said she had issued 95,811 ballots and received 50,000 back. She said she expected to receive 8,000 to 10,000 more by Saturday, all of which her office should be able to process before Election Day.

Anything returned today or Tuesday will not be processed until after that day.

“Election night, we will be counting the ballots from the polls, so we will not start on the vote-by-mail ballots that come in from the polls until Wednesday,” she wrote in response to an email from The Tribune.

Local voters who haven’t already cast their ballot by mail will go to polling places to choose whom they want to represent them in the U.S. House of Representatives, the state Assembly and Senate, and various local school boards, city councils and other government agencies.

That is on top of choosing a president and a U.S. senator, and having their say on a dozen ballot propositions that cover everything from human trafficking to the future of California’s public schools and colleges.

The highest profile local race — and potentially the closest — is the battle for the 24th District congressional seat between incumbent Democrat Lois Capps and Republican challenger Abel Maldonado.

Capps is a six-term incumbent whose best-known characteristics are a reliably liberal voting record and hands-on constituent service.

Maldonado, a Republican who has angered his party’s Tea Party wing for once joining Democrats to pass a state budget, has held many government jobs — Santa Maria mayor, assemblyman, state senator, lieutenant governor — and now wants to go to Washington.

The campaign has been marked by relentless television advertising, most of it negative, and charges and countercharges of financial irregularities.

This will be the first election held using the congressional district’s new boundaries. A state commission redrew them, and the district is now far more competitive. Previously, voter registration heavily favored the Democrat.

Other races

In the state Senate, San Luis Obispo’s incumbent Republican Sam Blakeslee is leaving, and Democrat Bill Monning of Carmel — currently in the Assembly — faces Scotts Valley school board member Larry Beaman, a Republican.

Regardless who wins, San Luis Obispo County will be without a local resident in the state Senate.

In the state Assembly, incumbent Republican Katcho Achadjian of San Luis Obispo is running for a second term against challenger Gerry Manata, a liberal Democrat from Paso Robles.

Voters in San Luis Obispo will choose a mayor from among three candidates: incumbent Jan Marx, architect Steve Barasch and community advocate Donald Hedrick.

Also at stake are two four-year council seats belonging to John Ashbaugh and Dan Carpenter, with both incumbents seeking re-election. Challengers include firefighter Kevin Rice, history teacher Jeff Aranguena and Matt Strzepek, who volunteers for local nonprofit groups, according to his website.

In North County, three seats are open on the Paso Robles City Council — two for City Council and one for mayor. In the mayoral race, two people are opposing Mayor Duane Picanco: Gary Nemeth, a retired police officer and councilman from 2000 to 2008, and Jeff Rougeot, a car audio business owner and local youth sports coach.

In the council contest, incumbents Fred Strong and Nick Gilman are challenged by Jerry Jones, a retired industrial gas professional, Jim Reed, a computer draftsman, and Steve Martin, a self-employed businessman who was on the council from 1987 to 1996.

In Atascadero, three candidates are running for two four-year council seats. Mayor Bob Kelley is seeking a council seat against incumbent Councilwoman Roberta Fonzi and business manager Ann Ketcherside.

This will be the first year Atascadero will have an elected mayor. Midterm Councilman Tom O’Malley is running unopposed for the post; his empty seat will be filled by the new council.

In South County, five candidates are running for two seats on the Pismo Beach City Council. They include incumbent Ed Waage, a former emergency planning manager at Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant; DJ White, a property manager and chairman of the city’s Planning Commission; Kevin Kreowski, a business owner and former agent with the U.S. Border Patrol; Erik Howell, a 17-year member of the Lucia Mar Unified School District board; and Sheila Blake, a retired airline supervisor.

Mayor Shelly Higginbotham is running unopposed for re-election.

In Grover Beach, two council members, Phyllis Molnar and Debbie Peterson, are running for the mayoral seat.

Five candidates are running for two four-year council seats: Incumbent Karen Bright, a buyer for the San Luis Coastal school district; Jeff Lee, a civil engineer; Louis Robles, a journeyman ironworker; Anita Shower, an author; and Liz Doukas White, a court reporter.

The city is also asking voters whether to turn Grover Beach into a charter city.

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