Debbie Arnold spent much of Wednesday on the phone with well-wishers and campaign workers — the folks she believes put her over the top in her effort to be elected to the county Board of Supervisors.
Arnold defeated 5th District incumbent Jim Patterson convincingly Tuesday, by 1,300 votes in unofficial totals. She will be sworn in officially in January.
Patterson, meanwhile, moving between various meetings, was assessing the results and planning how best to make effective use of his final six months in office.
“I’ll continue to do my job,” Patterson said while heading up the Cuesta Grade to an Atascadero event in early evening. He said he will focus on moving forward with the Atascadero library, solar power in the Carrizo Plain and implementation of the Paso Robles groundwater basin management plan.
He said the result was “a bit of a shock,” especially the margin. “We were expecting a closer race.”
Patterson said he needs more time and a closer look at the precincts to properly assess the outcome. But he had a few preliminary theories as to why he lost.
He said he believes Arnold’s message that government needs to downsize affected voters, as did the larger economy — “the global economic downturn and its effect on peoples’ lives.”
There were other factors, he said. Redistricting of supervisory districts added more conservative voters, for example. According to the final registration numbers reported by the California Secretary of State, there were 3,200 more Republicans than Democrats registered in the district.
Other factors: The turnout was low. The Tea Party “has nested in Atascadero.” And “there was a lot of big money coming in” to Arnold’s campaign.
“She was robo-calling practically every day,” including Election Day, he said, referring to automated calls to voters. “Money allows you to do that.”Arnold had a slightly different view.
The Pozo rancher said she believes she won because of supporters’ hard work and because her message finally gained traction — that government has expanded too greatly and overregulation is stifling business.
Under the current Board of Supervisors, fees have been increased multiple times, she said, fines have jumped, and doing business has become more difficult. She has been saying that for years, but this time the message evidently resonated.
Arnold will come to the board as a fiscal conservative and someone whose eye scrutinizes not only the bottom line but the line items above it. She says her years as a business owner and life as a farmer make her attentive to money.
Arnold also wanted to make clear that she supports much of what the current board has done, especially in pension reform and balancing budgets.
She said she respects the administration, especially County Administrative Officer Jim Grant, and expects to slip easily into the relatively smooth relationship the current board has with its administration.
One of the chief concerns expressed during the campaign about Arnold is the fear that she will become a mouthpiece for anti-growth organizations such as the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture, and Business (COLAB) or, on the board, Supervisor Frank Mecham.
She said, however, that she is her own woman.
Arnold said her years of experience as a staffer for state Sen. Sam Blakeslee and, before that, former Supervisor Mike Ryan have given her the knowledge of how to research and solve government problems.
“I make my own decisions,” she said.
The other victorious candidate Tuesday night, Adam Hill, who won in the 3rd District, said he is more than willing to put aside the sometimes overheated rhetoric of the election and help Arnold adjust to her new role.
“The campaign is over,” Hill said.
And what will Patterson do when he leaves office? “I’m not afraid of work,” he said. “I’ll find something interesting to do.”