Political Notebook

SLO County

Matt Kokkonen, who ran unsuccessfully for state Assembly twice, including one race against Sam Blakeslee, is endorsing his former foe for state Senate in the 15th District in Tuesday’s special election.

Kokkonen, a San Luis Obispo financial planner, lost the Republican nomination for the 33rd Assembly District on June 8 to San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Katcho Achadjian.

He ran against Blakeslee for the same seat and lost in 2004.

However, he said in an open letter released Wednesday, he thinks taxes will be too easy to raise if Blakeslee’s chief opponent, Democrat John Laird, wins. Independent Jim Fitzgerald and Libertarian Mark Hinkle also are in the race.

“Currently it takes a two-thirds majority vote to increase income taxes, property taxes and fees in California,” Kokkonen wrote. “We are only two senators away from losing that requirement. If Sam Blakeslee wins, we will at least keep that slim margin of protection.”

Laird is on record as wanting to reduce the requirement to pass a budget to a simple majority. Under the current two-thirds requirement, he said at a recent candidates debate, the state is ruled by the minority when it comes to adopting a budget.

Kokkonen also ran for Congress and for county Tax Collector-Treasurer, losing both times.

— Bob Cuddy

South County

Last year’s Lucia Mar teacher of the year, who has backed Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee in the past, is endorsing his opponent for state Senate, in part because he said he is repelled by Blakeslee’s campaign tactics.

Jim Gregory, an Arroyo Grande High School history teacher, said a mailer from the Blakeslee campaign influenced his change of vote for Democrat John Laird.

Gregory said he has voted twice for Blakeslee, has done business with Blakeslee’s financial planning firm, and has “long admired Sam’s pragmatism and relative moderation.”

But the attack mailer against Laird changed his mind, he wrote in a letter to the Democrat.

“Sam has resorted to the kind of smear tactics favored and nurtured by Lee Atwater and Karl Rove — and by Meg Whitman — and now seems to have acquired the GOP addiction to serial and compulsive lying,” Gregory wrote the Laird campaign.

Atwater achieved fame — and notoriety — for campaign advertisements he devised for George H.W. Bush when he ran against Democrat Michael Dukakis for president in 1988.

Rove was an adviser, confidante and campaign strategist for President George W. Bush.

“I am sick of this kind of scorched-earth politicking,” Gregory wrote. He added that he “wholeheartedly support(s) John’s positions on education.”

Both the Blakeslee and Laird campaigns have engaged in negative campaign advertising through the course of the 15th District state Senate race. For his part, Laird attempted to link Blakeslee to the Gulf oil spill due to Blakeslee having once worked for Exxon; the Laird mailers pointedly called Blakeslee “Oil Man Sam.” Blakeslee worked for the oil giant after graduate school, but left the oil industry to help manage his family’s financial planning firm.

— Staff report


Thirteen people, including a retired fire chief, are in the running for seven seats on three Cambria boards after the closure of candidacy-filing periods for the Nov. 2 election.

Nominations closed Wednesday for the Cambria Community Services District Board of Directors, where neither of the two incumbents is running. Cambria businessman Mike Thompson has joined the race. Other candidates are businessman and college professor Jim Bahringer; astrologer and gardener Harry Farmer; and university professor and author Valerie Bentz.

Nominations closed Aug. 6 for the other three Cambria-area boards. All four boards have five members.

Bob Putney, retired Cambria Fire Department chief, tossed his helmet into the race for three seats on the Cambria Community Healthcare District board. Also running are Hearst Castle tour guide Jeff Miller and incumbents Runo Lemming, John Headding and Frank Fratto.

In the Coast Unified School District Board of Trustees race, incumbent Dianne Brooke is now running, along with fellow board member Del Clegg and challengers Gretchen Ross of Cayucos and Lee Chamberlain of Cambria.

The contest for a spot on the San Simeon Community Services District Board of Directors has ended before it began. The two incumbents, Terry Lambeth and Dee Dee Ricci, were the only candidates to apply for the two seats, so no election will be held.

The complete county list of candidate filings is available at http://tinyurl.com /243g5ry.

— Tribune staff report