Paso sends a woman to the council for the first time in 34 years; incumbents re-elected

Paso Robles is on the cusp of electing its first councilwoman in more than three decades — and she’ll likely be joined by an incumbent mayor and councilman.

Maria Elena Garcia, a newcomer to the city’s political scene, was in second place in the Paso Robles council race and will probably hold onto the seat as additional mail-in ballots are counted.

The San Luis Obispo County Clerk’s Office still has tens of thousands of vote-by-mail ballots to count — the current results include ballots cast in person and those received prior to Election Day.

County Clerk Tommy Gong said on Wednesday he expects additional results will be available on Friday, with another count on Tuesday. The election results will become official at the end of the month.

Garcia, Hamon hold onto lead in council race

Garcia faced off against incumbent Councilman John Hamon and new candidates Michael Rivera and Andy Pekema for two seats on the council.

Hamon had the lead with 30.5 percent of the vote, and Garcia trailed by 4 points with 26.6 percent, according to results released at 11:10 a.m. on Wednesday with 100 percent of precincts reporting.

Rivera came in third with 21.8 percent of the vote, and Pekema was fourth with 21.0 percent.

If Garcia holds on to second place, she will become only the third woman to serve on the council in the city’s history.

Asking the Tough Questions

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The Tribune researched election records dating back to 1930 and found only two councilwomen: Natalia Stockdale, who served from 1972 to 1976, and Betty Cousins, who served from 1984 to 1988.

On Tuesday night, Garcia said she’s proud her campaign influenced more Paso Robles residents to participate in city elections. She said she also hopes to open the door for other women who may want to run for city office.

“I feel like a lot of of the community — it’s their first time ever to get involved,” Garcia said. “They really didn’t think their voice mattered.”

Hamon will likely earn his fourth term on the council — he’s served as a representative for the past 12 years. He said on Tuesday night that he wants to continue working for the city, with a special emphasis on infrastructure and public safety.

“I’m appreciative of everyone getting behind me on this,” he said.

Martin wins another term as mayor

Mayor Steve Martin also earned a second term as mayor, defeating his challenger, Councilman Jim Reed.

Martin won 54.9 percent of the unofficial vote, and Reed trailed by 10 points with 44.9 percent.

Martin said he’s excited to continue the work he’s started during the past four years, including economic development, road improvements and bolstering the city’s emergency services.

“For the past few years, we’ve been working things that are going to be coming to a head very quickly,” he said.

Ballot measure updates

Paso Robles residents also voted on four ballot measures. Here’s where they stood on Wednesday morning.

Measure H-18, which would shift the city clerk to an appointed position, looks like it will pass. Yes votes were leading with 53.7 percent, while no votes garnered 46.4 percent.

Measure I-18, the cannabis business tax, was approved by a large margin. The measure was leading with 67.5 percent in support and 32.5 percent against.

It would tax cannabis businesses up to $20 per square foot for cultivation and processing, up to 10 percent of gross receipts for transportation, up to 15 percent of gross receipts for manufacturing, testing and distribution and up to 10 percent of gross receipts for dispensaries. The tax would generate about $15,000 annually for unrestricted general purposes, according to the measure.

Measure K-18, the special sales tax for road repairs, failed with 54.1 percent opposed and 45.8 percent in support.

This measure would add another sales tax to help pay for road repairs and emergency service needs. It would provide approximately $4.75 million annually for six years, according to the measure.

Measure N-18, the sales tax advisory, won in convincing fashion with 72.3 percent in support vs. 27.7 percent opposed.

This measure would permit officials to use funds from the sales tax increase primarily for repairing and maintaining Paso Robles’ streets and sidewalks.

Lindsey Holden: 805-781-7939, @lindseymholden
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