Picanco wins Paso mayor's race; Martin, Strong picked for City Council

tstrickland@thetribunenews.comNovember 6, 2012 

Paso Robles City Council candidates Fred Strong, left, and Steve Martin share a laugh during their election event at the Paso Robles Golf Club Clubhouse on Tuesday.

JOE JOHNSTON — jjohnston@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

UPDATE 10:50 a.m. Wednesday: Paso Robles Mayor Duane Picanco has secured his lead in the polls Tuesday night, easily overtaking two write-in candidates. With all precincts reporting, Picanco had 86 percent of the vote while write-ins took just 14.3 percent, according to the county's final unofficial election results.

Original story: Paso Robles Mayor Duane Picanco lead in the polls Tuesday night, but it could be several days before voters know who won, since two write-in candidates represent his only opposition.

“I’m really truly appreciative … but it’s still early and this thing isn’t over with yet,” Picanco said Tuesday.

With all precincts reporting, Picanco had 86 percent of the vote.

In an unusual move, three write-in candidates ran in this year’s election — two for mayor and one for City Council. While the San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder’s office counted the number of voters who filled in the write-in bubble on their ballots Tuesday, the specific names voters wrote beside that bubble will be hand-tallied starting the week of Nov. 19.

The write-in votes for mayor accounted for just 14.3 percent of voters counted by late Tuesday. Those votes could represent Gary Nemeth, a former councilman from 2000 to 2008 who lost the mayoral seat to Picanco in 2008 and 2010; or Jeff Rougeot, a car audio business owner.

Road repairs and the potential for new sales tax revenue took the helm in the city’s council and mayoral races this year. Trust has also been an issue — leaving the newly seated council tasked with pulling the community out of the aftermath of a controversial $250,000 payout to Paso Robles' former police chief Lisa Solomon.

Picanco, a retired shoe shop owner, campaigned for a lean budget and said he’d stand up for small business and for fixing the streets.

Nemeth vowed to shift the mind-set of the city, first by showing his support to fire City Manager Jim App and City Attorney Iris Yang.

Rougeot, a single-issue candidate with no previous political experience, lobbied for new lights and dirt at youth sports fields.

City Council

In the City Council race, 28 percent of voters favored electing newcomer Steve Martin, a businessman, and nearly 24 percent chose incumbent Fred Strong, to the two open seats on the five-member council.

Behind them were Jim Reed, a computer draftsman and incumbent Nick Gilman.

Only 44 votes separated Strong and Reed.

A third contender was write-in candidate Jerry Jones, a retired industrial gas professional. Write-ins accounted for 3.6 percent of the votes late Tuesday night.

Gilman, on the council since 2008, pledged to continue restoring Paso Robles' general fund reserve and find money to fix the streets. He also wants the city to aggressively fight gangs.

Strong said he would continue to lobby the state for more local funds.

Some of his key issues are transportation and economic development.

Martin wants to bridge the divide between the public and government, saying he’d work to improve core services.

Jones distaste for recent council decisions, such as the council’s placement of a general sales tax measure on the ballot, led him to run. He, like many residents, also wants answers to how the Solomon payment was handled.

Reed ran on a platform of change, saying that business people who run into excessive requirements at City Hall need help not hindrance.

City Clerk Dennis Fansler and Treasurer Mike Compton, both four-year terms, ran unopposed.

Reach Tonya Strickland at 781-7858. Stay updated by following @tstrickland on Twitter.

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