The race for two seats on the Paso Robles City Council proved to be one of the San Luis Obispo County’s tightest Tuesday night with all five candidates almost evenly splitting the votes at about 20 percent each.
As of 11 p.m., with 10 of 15 precincts reporting, incumbent John Hamon led the race for council by a couple of points, trailed by Duane Picanco, Pam Avila and Jim Reed in a near dead heat. City planning commissioner Steve Gregory was fifth, but not by much.
A win by Avila would make her Paso Robles’ first woman to serve on the City Council since 1984.
Assessing the close race early in the night, Picanco wasn’t ready to make any predictions. “It’s too early to tell,” he said.
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Meanwhile, the mayor race was already decided, with mid-term Councilman Steve Martin running unopposed.
With economic recovery top of mind in the community, returning the incumbents to the City Council would keep a largely conservative leadership focused on growth and tourism.
As impacts from the recession fade, Picanco and Hamon say they want to continue their work to help the city recover from the recession, but with a watchful eye on spending.
Meanwhile, Avila, Gregory and Reed have pushed for change, highlighting issues such as reopening Centennial Pool.
Avila and Reed, two candidates with mostly private-sector experience, could shake up the council direction if they are elected.
Avila may steer the council away from what she views as a tendency to approve projects just because they support tourism while Reed says he will call for more study on city spending he thinks has been poorly handled.
Reed comes from the city’s government-mistrust era in 2012 when the city doled out a controversial $250,000 payout to its former police chief. He also ran for council two years ago but lost by a slim margin to incumbent Fred Strong.
After this vote, the council will need to hold a special election or appoint someone to serve out the remaining two years on Martin’s seat since he’s moving to the mayor’s job midterm.