Top 10 of 2010: No. 3: Long election year on the Central Coast

It seemed as though 2010 began, endured and ended with a heavy focus on elections at all levels, with the local political season dragging on until Dec. 21, when Dan Carpenter was named to the San Luis Obispo City Council.

The electoral theme was heightened by a game of musical chairs at the state level that required two extra elections because of resignations.

But it is over for now and, as 2011 begins, all of the county’s seven cities will have a new member or two on their councils, and the county Board of Supervisors will welcome a new representative.

In addition, the county will have a new sheriff for the first time in 12 years, and the Central Coast will begin the new year with different people holding its state Senate and state Assembly jobs.

At the federal level, Reps. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, and Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, the region’s two Congress members, will return to the House of Representatives. Despite 2010 supposedly being an anti-incumbent year, Capps won easily, and McCarthy ran unopposed. McCarthy will serve as majority whip in the new Congress.

Both Capps and McCarthy serve bizarrely shaped districts that may be redrawn when the new state Citizens Redistricting Commission, empowered by ballot initiatives in 2008 and 2010, reconfigures boundaries. Commissioners expect to complete their work in time for the elections of 2012.

The most high-profile change at the county level was the election of Sheriff Ian Parkinson, who bested former Pismo Beach Police Chief Joe Cortez in the November runoff.

Parkinson is replacing three-term incumbent Pat Hedges, whose term was marked by scandal, including an incident in which he allegedly spied on his own officers and a lawsuit that was settled for six figures.

Parkinson has vowed to restore an internal affairs unit as well as cooperate more fully with the Board of Supervisors, whose members were often at odds with Hedges.

The longest-running election was the one to fill out the San Luis Obispo City Council. Mayor Dave Romero and Councilman Allen Settle, fixtures in city government for decades, both retired.

Kathy Smith was elected to replace Settle, and Jan Marx won the mayor’s race, narrowly beating Paul Brown by 166 votes. But Marx was an incumbent councilwoman, and her ascension to mayor left her City Council seat vacant. City Council members chose to avert the cost of a special election and instead appointed Carpenter, who came in just behind Smith in the general election.

Morro Bay experienced one of the tightest races, a squeaker that ended with Bill Yates edging Betty Winholtz by 72 votes.

A contest in Shandon topped that, however: Michael Wimmer defeated Ester Garcia for a seat on the school board by one vote.

The battles that consumed the most voter time — and money — were conducted at the state level, for Senate and Assembly.

As 2010 began, Abel Maldonado was the senator for the Central Coast’s 15th Senate District, and Sam Blakeslee represented the 33rd Assembly District.

However, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Maldonado to fill the vacant lieutenant governor’s post. When Maldonado resigned from the Senate, Blakeslee went for his job.

Schwarzenegger’s timing in making the appointment was such that that particular election could not by law be consolidated with the June primary election. Instead, a special primary election was held solely for that seat.

There were four candidates, and when nobody won 50 percent of the vote, it triggered yet another election, a midsummer August runoff, which Blakeslee won.

County Supervisor Katcho Achadjian survived a long election season and a half-dozen opponents to win the Assembly job vacated by Blakeslee.

Achadjian resigned from the county Board of Supervisors, to be replaced by Paul Teixeira of Nipomo, who defeated two opponents.

Meanwhile, at the state level, Maldonado, a Republican, failed in his bid to be elected lieutenant governor as Democrats swept the state constitutional offices from governor on down.