San Luis Obispo County voters are making their voices heard tonight — picking who they want to represent them in the U.S. House of Representatives, state Assembly, state Senate and several city councils.
At 8.05 p.m., the county Clerk-Recorder’s Office turned in its initial results, consisting of vote-by-mail ballots that had been turned in by Saturday.
Republican challenger Abel Maldonado was edging ahead of incumbent Democrat Lois Capps in the battle for the 24th District congressional seat. With 11 of 147 precincts reporting, he had 50.4 percent of the vote, while she had 49.6 percent.
Capps is a six-term incumbent, while Maldonado has held many government jobs, including Santa Maria mayor, assemblyman, state senator and lieutenant governor.
Republican Larry Beaman was a top choice among SLO County voters for the state Senate seat vacated by incumbent Republican Sam Blakeslee of San Luis Obispo. In the contest for District 17, the Scotts Valley school board member had 54 percent of votes thus far, while Carmel Democrat Bill Monning, currently in the Assembly, had almost 46 percent. However, three other counties comprise the 17th District, and Monning was leading overall.
In the state Assembly race, incumbent Republican Katcho Achadjian of San Luis Obispo moved closer to his goal of securing a second term. He scored 64.4 percent of the vote, while challenger Gerald “Gerry” Manata, a Democrat from Paso Robles, earned 35.6 percent in the District 35 race.
Meanwhile, a host of candidates battled for mayoral and city council seats across San Luis Obispo County.
In San Luis Obispo, incumbent Mayor Jan Marx had secured a healthy 65.5 percent of the vote. Her challengers, architect Steve Barasch and community advocate Donald Hedrick, had 28.8 percent and 5.3 percent respectively.
City Council member Dan Carpenter was holding onto his seat with 34.3 percent of the vote, while fellow incumbent John Ashbaugh had 32.3 percent. Of their challengers, history teacher Jeff Aranguena had 17.2 percent, firefighter Kevin Rice had 13.6 percent and Matt Strzepek, who volunteers for local nonprofit groups, had 2.3 percent.
In the North County, Paso Robles Mayor Duane Picanco was handily defending his post with 85.2 percent of the vote. Two write-in candidates — Gary Nemeth, a retired police officer and former councilman from 2000 to 2008, and Jeff Rougeot, car audio business owner and local youth sports coach — shared 14.8 percent.
Self-employed businessman Steve Martin was leading the Paso Robles City Council race with 27.7 percent of the vote, followed by computer draftsman Jim Reed with 23.9 percent. Incumbents Fred Strong and Nick Gilman had 22.8 percent and 21.9 percent, respectively.
In Atascadero, incumbent Councilwoman Roberta Fonzi was retaining her seat with 41.6 percent of the vote, trailed by Mayor Bob Kelley with 37.8 percent and business manager Ann Ketcherside with 18.9 percent.
Midterm Councilman Tom O'Malley is running unopposed to become Atascadero’s elected mayor.
In the South County, incumbent Ed Waage was at the top of the Pismo Beach City Council race with 31.2 percent of the vote. The former emergency planning manager at Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant was followed by Erik Howell, a 17- year member of the Lucia Mar Unified School District board, with 25.4 percent.
Retired airline supervisor Sheila Blake had 18.4 percent, while DJ White, a property manager and chairman of the city's Planning Commission had 13. 7 percent and Kevin Kreowski, a business owner and former agent with the U.S. Border Patrol, had 10.9 percent.
Mayor Shelly Higginbotham is running unopposed for re-election.
In Grover Beach, mayoral candidate Debbie Peterson was enjoying a healthy lead over fellow City Council member Phyllis Molnar, netting nearly 76 percent compared to Molnar’s 23.6 percent.
Incumbent Councilwoman Karen Bright, a buyer for the San Luis Coastal school district, was leading the Grover Beach council race with 30.5 percent of the vote, followed by civil engineer Jeff Lee with 23.7 percent. Of the remaining opponents, court reporter Liz Doukas White had 16.3 percent, journeyman ironworker Louis Robles had 16.2 percent and author Anita Shower had 13.1 percent.
More conclusive election results will be released throughout the night as county elections staff count ballots cast today at polling places. This counting will continue until about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.