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Heidi Harmon overtakes Jan Marx to win SLO mayor seat

San Luis Obispo Mayor-elect Heidi Harmon talks with a supporter at her party on election night, Nov. 8. Harmon once trailed by 5 percentage points, but after all votes were counted, she defeated incumbent Jan Marx by just 47 votes, according to the county Clerk-Recorder’s Office.
San Luis Obispo Mayor-elect Heidi Harmon talks with a supporter at her party on election night, Nov. 8. Harmon once trailed by 5 percentage points, but after all votes were counted, she defeated incumbent Jan Marx by just 47 votes, according to the county Clerk-Recorder’s Office. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

San Luis Obispo mayoral candidate Heidi Harmon has overtaken incumbent Jan Marx to win the city’s top seat by 47 votes, according to the San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder’s Office.

The office released numbers Wednesday that show Harmon won with 49.8 percent of the vote compared with Marx’s 49.5 percent, with no remaining votes to be counted.

Harmon garnered 10,500 votes to Marx’s 10,453. Marx was ahead by 5 percentage points after election night.

The Clerk-Recorder’s Office needed to count remaining ballots, including vote-by-mail and provisional votes, which the office finished Wednesday afternoon.

Heidi Harmon squeaked past incumbent Jan Marx to win the San Luis Obispo mayor’s seat by just 47 votes, according to the county Clerk-Recorder's Office. On election night, Nov. 8, 2016, Harmon trailed by 5 percentage points. She spoke about her go

“I was not tied to the outcome, because I felt confident we ran a good campaign and I could accept the result either way,” Harmon said. “But I think this shows what’s possible. I hope this inspires people to get involved and consider running for local office in 2018. We can have a whole new crop of candidates, locally, statewide, nationally, who put people over profits.”

Inspired by Bernie Sanders, whom Harmon supported as a national Democratic delegate, she returned from the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this summer vowing to make fundamental changes to the political system on a local level. She was endorsed by Bernie Sanders’ wife, Jane.

“I just thought, ‘This is what Bernie suggested. This is what Bernie is asking us to do,’ ” Harmon told ABC News. “If we really care that much, then going home and getting mad, well, hopefully that will be short and hopefully people will use those feelings of frustration and concern to get engaged.”

Harmon released a statement thanking Marx for her decades of service to the community and for the volunteers and supporters who helped her to victory.

I hope this inspires people to get involved and consider running for local office in 2018. We can have a whole new crop of candidates, locally, statewide, and nationally, who put people over profits.

Heidi Harmon, San Luis Obispo mayor elect

Marx said in a phone interview with The Tribune on Wednesday that she doesn’t plan to ask for a recount and will accept the result.

“I have phoned Heidi Harmon and left a message on her phone congratulating her,” Marx said. “I said before the results were known that whoever wins, we should reach out to each other to help to unify the city. I look forward to the future of the city.”

On Sunday, with an uncertain tally, Marx had posted on her Facebook page that she “will accept the will of the voters, be grateful for the time I have served on council, and explore other ways to contribute to our community.”

Harmon said that creating affordable housing, addressing climate change and promoting a diverse community are at the top of her priority list as mayor. She said she wants to help add affordable housing without destroying existing neighborhoods and that she believes San Luis Obispo can “be a champion on climate change.”

“I think San Luis Obispo can become a net zero city in a really short period of time,” Harmon said.

Harmon said she’s unsure how the city might be able to explore some of the policies that Bernie Sanders encouraged on a federal level, such as single-payer health care. But she said she hopes to partner with other cities to see what options San Luis Obispo might have.

“Bernie talks about having the courage to stick by values,” Harmon said. “You can have a platform, but you have to have the courage to stick by your values.”

I have phones Heidi Harmon and left a message on her phone congratulating her. I said before the results were known that whoever wins, we should reach out to each other to help to unify the city. I look forward to the future of the city.

Jan Marx, San Luis Obispo mayor

Marx served four-year terms on the San Luis Obispo City Council from 1998 to 2002 and was re-elected to the council in 2008. She was elected as mayor in 2010 and then subsequently in 2012 and 2014.

As mayor, Marx vocally opposed the proposed rail spur at the Phillips 66 refinery on Nipomo Mesa; pushed for the city’s inclusion in negotiations regarding Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant’s closure plan; voted in favor of increased workforce housing; and approved the city’s Climate Action Plan in 2012.

Her latest term included controversy over the Rental Housing Inspection Program, which she advocated for and played a key role in implementing.

The policy is designed to protect renters from unsafe and unhealthy living conditions through blanket inspections, but privacy rights advocates have heavily opposed the ordinance, going so far as to file a lawsuit against the city.

In recent months, Marx supported re-evaluating the program, which the new council will do in March when an update on the program will be discussed at a regular meeting.

Harmon said in a candidate forum that she would support repealing the rental inspection program. She said she believes the program violates tenant privacy and costs are being passed on to renters. Harmon supported empowering tenants to report housing code violations.

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