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Parkinson support is deep and wide in sheriff race

Sheriff hopeful Joe Cortez has his work cut out for him if he wants to beat Ian Parkinson, the top vote-getter by far in the June 8 primary election.

Parkinson, a San Luis Obispo police captain, received more votes than any of the other five candidates for county sheriff in all but five of the 137 precincts in the county, according to a Tribune analysis of election results from the county Clerk-Recorder’s Office.

He even received 46 more votes in Pismo Beach than Cortez, who served as that city’s police chief from 2001 through December 2008.

Cortez received more votes than Parkinson in only five precincts: three in Pismo Beach and two in Arroyo Grande.

Parkinson, who has worked for the San Luis Obispo Police Department since 1988, dominated the polls over Cortez in San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles.

The precinct results will help guide the two candidates as they vie for voters in the runoff election Nov. 2.

Parkinson captured 41 percent of the vote in the primary race, followed by Cortez with 18 percent. Retired San Luis Obispo police Sgt. Jerry Lenthall, a former county supervisor, came in third with nearly 17 percent.

Under election rules, Parkinson would have needed to win 50 percent plus one of the ballots to have captured the seat outright. He and Cortez face off in the November election because they were the top two finishers.

While Lenthall finished 1,011 votes behind Cortez, he received more votes than Cortez in nine communities: Atascadero, Avila Beach, Cambria, Cayucos, Creston, San Luis Obispo, Santa Margarita, Shandon and Templeton.

Lenthall said Friday that he is meeting with the two candidates and has not yet decided whether he’s going to endorse Parkinson or Cortez.

The other candidates in the primary were Deputy Sheriff Mark Adams, sheriff’s Cmdr. Ben Hall and retired CHP Officer Michael “Tex” Teixeira. They received 6.5, 7 and 10 percent of the votes cast, respectively.

The sheriff oversees a budget of $57.2 million and a 377-member department that patrols about 3,200 square miles in the unincorporated areas of the county. The annual salary is $182,104.

A new campaign

Looking ahead, Parkinson said he plans to focus his outreach on all areas of the county, with an emphasis in the South County — especially in Pismo Beach and Oceano, where he led Cortez by fewer than 50 votes.

Cortez finished fewer than 150 votes behind Parkinson in Grover Beach and fewer than 300 votes behind in Nipomo.

“I expected (Cortez) to be strong in South County,” Parkinson said. “But I thought I did well considering that was kind of his home turf.”

Parkinson received 3,468 more votes than Cortez in San Luis Obispo and 2,033 more votes in Paso Robles.

Parkinson said he spent about $60,000 on advertising leading up to the primary. He has about $1,500 cash on hand and plans to start fundraising in July.

Financial statements filed with the county Clerk-Recorder’s Office in May show that Parkinson had spent a total of $91,753 this year on his campaign, while Cortez had spent a total of $37,923.

“It’s promising to see how I fared throughout the county, but I feel like I have to work harder now than ever before,” Parkinson said, as he tries to attract voters who cast ballots for the other candidates.

“I can’t take it for granted,” he said of the primary results. “I’m going to approach it like I just began, and none of those numbers mean anything until November.”

Fundraising has started

Cortez took a short break after the primary, then he immediately started gearing up for November.

He has already started fundraising and plans a strong effort in the precincts in which he trailed Parkinson.

“We’re going to build upon our strengths,” he said. “We’re not going to overlook precincts where we did well.”

Cortez plans to continue his previous campaign strategy of knocking on doors, attending events and setting up a series of meet-and-greets to get to know voters.

He estimated he spent about $10,000 to $15,000 on advertising, including radio and television ads. His campaign also spent money on fliers, business cards, door hangers and other campaign materials; the total for those materials was unavailable.

Cortez said he has about $10,000 cash on hand.

When asked whether he regarded the next few months as an uphill battle, Cortez said: “I guess there’s an uphill battle in the sense of trying to convince those that voted for my opponent to vote for me. But I think the real battle is to get that 60 percent who did not vote for him.”

Cortez said he planned to reach out to those voters “and see if we can get their trust and support.”

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.

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