North County voters in the District 1 San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors race will have plenty of choices — but not much diversity — when they go to the polls June 7.
All four candidates vying to replace retiring Supervisor Frank Mecham are men. All are middle-aged or older. All tout their conservative credentials. And they all seem to get along.
Perhaps the biggest difference among them is the fact that two have government experience at the city level while the other two have not held elected office.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Because June’s ballot is a primary election, it is unlikely that any one candidate will get more than 50 percent of the vote and win the seat outright. Instead, the top two vote-getters in the primary election will move on to the general election in November, and the other two candidates will be eliminated.
The sprawling district covers much of the North County and includes Paso Robles, San Miguel and parts of Templeton. Some of the main issues facing the district are securing adequate water supplies, balancing growth with protecting the environment and affordable housing.
The outcome of the election will be crucial. During his last two years in office, Mecham was frequently the swing vote between liberal Supervisors Adam Hill and Bruce Gibson and conservative Supervisors Debbie Arnold and Lynn Compton.
Here is a look at the candidates:
Martin is a moderate in the field of four. He has made improving homeless services a top priority during his tenure on the City Council. Most recently, Martin pushed to have the mothballed California Youth Authority facility near Paso Robles transformed into a homeless transition center that would provide housing, job training and other support services enabling the homeless to find permanent housing.
One of the biggest issues that will face the Board of Supervisors in 2017 is the Phillips 66 rail spur project at the oil company’s Nipomo Mesa refinery. A majority of San Luis Obispo County planning commissioners have said they are in favor of the project, and any decision made by the Planning Commission is likely to be appealed to the Board of Supervisors.
Martin said he supports the project but has concerns about safety; he even referred to the oil trains as bomb trains during a recent candidates forum. He said he supports the project because of the refinery’s 200 jobs and the economic boost it gives the county.
“I think overall it’s a good thing for our county, but it should be done correctly,” he said.
Martin supported the formation of a management district for the Paso Robles groundwater basin, but voters in the basin overwhelmingly voted down the district. He now supports the county managing the basin rather than the state.
Hamon has been on the Paso Robles City Council for 10 years. He is running on a platform of protecting property rights and the quality of life in the North County.
He calls himself a commonsense person and a conservative leader. He is the owner of Hamon Overhead Door Company in Paso Robles.
“Conservative thinking is very important,” he said. “We think differently here than they do south of (Cuesta) Grade.”
Hamon wants to increase affordable housing by limiting county building fees. Government needs to be streamlined not just in planning but in other government departments, he said.
He is in favor of the Phillips 66 rail spur project, and recognizes that safety is a major concern.
“If we can put a man on the moon, we can move crude oil safely through the system,” Hamon said.
Like Martin, Hamon supported the formation of a Paso Robles groundwater basin management district. He has called on the Board of Supervisors to step up and show leadership in managing the basin.
Peschong has made battling gangs a major part of his campaign platform. Gangs are an emerging problem and are fueling the county’s drug and heroin problem, he said.
Like Hamon, Peschong wants a smaller, more efficient government and lower taxes. He opposed the formation of a management district for the Paso Robles groundwater basin and supports the Phillips 66 rail spur project.
“The main thing is getting product to the refinery so we can continue to have those 200 head-of-household jobs,” he said.
Peschong is a partner in Meridian Pacific, a consulting firm with offices in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Templeton that specializes in political consulting and public affairs. He worked for the administration of President Ronald Reagan and has consulted for former President George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Gustin said he considers water, jobs and affordable housing to be the main issues facing the district. Like the other candidates, he considers fees too high and would like to streamline the permitting process.
He is an avid observer of the political process and regularly attends meetings of the county Board of Supervisors, Planning Commission and Paso Robles City Council.
He opposed the formation of the Paso Robles basin water district and wants the county to manage the five groundwater basins that the state has declared in overdraft.
“When I am on the Board of Supervisors, we will meet the requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act without the state getting involved,” he said.
Earlier this month, Gustin was cited for trespassing by the Paso Robles Police Department when he refused to leave the radio station KPRL, which was holding a forum with the other three candidates.
During the campaign, Gustin has referred to himself as a retired attorney. However, his law license was suspended in 2015. It was reinstated April 9, he said.
On June 17, 2014, the State Bar Court of California inactivated Gustin’s license to practice law when he failed to appear at a hearing to consider three counts of alleged professional misconduct on his part. On Feb. 12, 2015, the court placed Gustin on two years’ stayed suspension and three years of probation, including six months of actual suspension.
Candidates at a glance
Education: Attended Cal Poly, graduated from Fresno State with a degree in journalism
Family: Wife, Jennifer; two daughters, Nora and Jamie
Occupation: Communications, media, advertising, public relations
Previous employment: The Tourist LLC
Previous public offices: Paso Robles City Council
Why he is running: “To represent the people of District One and work for a future SLO County that includes equitable and efficient water management, economic development to produce local jobs for local people, maintenance of critical transportation infrastructure, more effective services for the homeless and improved civil discourse.”
Education: Loyola Marymount University, bachelor’s degree
Family: Wife, Anna; two children, John and Lila Lee
Occupation: Self-employed; a partner in Meridian Pacific Inc.
Previous employment: I have been a small business owner for nearly 15 years.
Previous public offices: None
Why he is running: There is no better place than San Luis Obispo County, but decisions at the state level have compromised our safety, public education system and local economy. For nearly 20 years, I’ve worked to protect our taxpayers, families and small businesses. I’ll use this experience to ensure our region remains the best place to live, work and raise a family.
Education: Bachelor of Arts Degree, School of Industrial Technology, Cal Poly
Family: Wife, Marjorie; children Jessica and John III
Occupation: Owner, Hamon Overhead Door Co.
Previous public offices: Paso Robles City Council
Why he is running: It is my goal to protect our unique home on the Central Coast, and I am determined to defend all our property rights and our chosen way of life in San Luis Obispo County.
Education: Glendale College of Law
Family: two grown children; four grandchildren
Occupation: Retired attorney
Previous public offices: None
Why he is running: He wants to bring his wide diversity of knowledge and experience to the county supervisors’ forum. He said he is a caring individual who believes a supervisor should be fair to all people and should allow all people to have a voice to be heard.