4 mayors in SLO County likely to have no opposition

Four of San Luis Obispo County’s mayoral races appear to have fizzled before they began. The incumbent mayors in Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Paso Robles and Pismo Beach will be unopposed in the November general election, except for the rare prospect of a write-in candidate.

The solo-race candidates include Arroyo Grande Mayor Tony Ferrara; current Atascadero City Councilman Tom O’Malley, who will run to be that city’s first popularly elected mayor; Paso Robles Mayor Duane Picanco; and Pismo Beach Mayor Shelly Higginbotham.

Two Arroyo Grande City Council members — Jim Guthrie and Caren Ray — are also unopposed, which will likely nix that city’s entire council election Nov. 6. A decision on whether to cancel is due in coming weeks, officials said.

Most mayoral candidates were pleased to have no opposition, but said they still plan to reach out to the community and work on platforms of economic development.

“It makes no difference,” Picanco said Monday. “I’m going to campaign like I did before because I feel like I need to get out there and get what the community is thinking — what they are happy with and what they aren’t happy with.”

Competition may develop with write-in candidates still a possibility in all races for elected posts. But first, such candidates need to file for a write-in candidacy spot between Sept. 10 and Oct. 23 in order to qualify for a seat should they win.

Because mayors typically run every two years, Ferrara, who has been mayor five times before, said it’s nice that an unopposed race “gives you breathing room.”

“I was prepared for a challenge and I think all of our candidate incumbents were prepared as well,” he added.

O’Malley, who has been mayor twice before, said he had an inkling that he would be unopposed, and hadn’t begun his fundraising campaign as a result. “I didn’t want to detract from the community events I fundraise for if there wasn’t a need to.”