Correction: An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly described a campaign donation given to supervisor candidate Debbie Arnold. She received many donations from business people and agriculture, but not from the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture & Business.
So, did we have a primary election Tuesday? More than 60 percent of the registered voters of this county didn’t seem to think so; at least they didn’t exercise their constitutionally guaranteed rights of casting a ballot for representation at the local, state and national levels.
According to the semi-final tally from the San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder’s Office, out of the 147,276 registered voters in the county, a mere 57,833 actually voted. That works out to 39.2 percent.
That percentage could rise, according to county Clerk-Recorder Julie Rodewald. Of those who voted, 39,600 used an absentee/mail-in ballot and 18,233 voters went to precincts Tuesday. Rodewald expects 10,000 mail-in ballots yet to be counted to increase the percentage to 45 percent. Not so bad, not so good.
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OK, so it was a presidential primary and both parties’ nominees are decided for the general election in November. And maybe the names Lois Capps and Abel Maldonado have been around so long in the political arena that they’re now yawn-inspiring. But shouldn’t the coattails of the late actor Robert Mitchum have inspired a little more interest in his son Chris, who was running for a seat in the 24th District against Capps and Maldonado? Apparently not.
The two races that did garner the imagination of voters and county residents were for the 3rd District and 5th District supervisor slots.
In the final tally, it wasn’t all that much of a surprise that Adam Hill retained his seat in the 3rd District; it’s a bit on the liberal side and tends to elect like-minded individuals to the board.
What was surprising, though, was the margin of victory that separated Hill and challenger Pismo Beach City Councilman Ed Waage — almost 18 percentage points.
Perhaps equally surprising was the margin of victory of challenger Debbie Arnold over 5th District Supervisor Jim Patterson — almost 16 percentage points.
It’s true that the 5th District is perceived as conservative, and Arnold lost her first bid against Patterson four years ago by a mere several hundred votes. But the district is actually somewhat of a wildcard when it comes to political alignment.
Consider: Going back almost 50 years conservative Hans Heilmann was elected to the board in 1964. The district then elected liberal Richard Krejsa. Jeff Jorgensen, another liberal, followed Krejsa. Carl Hysen, a conservative, followed Jorgensen, who was followed by David Blakely, a liberal. Conservative Mike Ryan followed Blakely, who in turn yielded the seat to Patterson, a liberal.
Yet, there will no doubt be hand wringing in certain circles that Arnold will climb into the seat of Caterpillar D9 earthmover and start paving over the county.
Don’t count on it.
Although Arnold received large amounts of money from special interests including the wine industry, she’s a pragmatic individual who represents a long line of ranchers, people who have made their living from the land and are responsible for keeping some of our collectively coveted wide-open vistas just that — wide open.
And if there is a quid pro quo attached to her campaign finances (and, realistically, aren’t there strings attached to campaign contributions?), then she’ll have a Board of Supervisors in which to make her case — not to mention a public that will no doubt be watching her actions with intense scrutiny.
A major plank in Arnold’s campaign was government regulation or, more to the point, over-regulation. Fair enough. We urge Supervisor-elect Arnold to dig out those onerous rules and directives, shine a spotlight on them and, if they are superfluous government mandates that are choking common sense and the economic vitality of this county, then root them out.
That’s a benchmark worthy of being nailed down.
Editorials are the opinion of The Tribune.