Elections

Big money, mudslinging mark 3rd District supervisor race

Candidates for the 3rd District of the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors: Dan Carpenter, Adam Hill and Debbie Peterson.
Candidates for the 3rd District of the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors: Dan Carpenter, Adam Hill and Debbie Peterson. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

The race to become San Luis Obispo County’s District 3 supervisor has been less a competition of ideals, and more about the well-documented dislike between the candidates, most of it targeted at incumbent Adam Hill.

In fact, San Luis Obispo City Councilman Dan Carpenter has based almost his entire campaign on his dislike for Hill, citing his reason for running as a desire “to return respectful leadership back to the 3rd District.” Grover Beach real estate Debbie Peterson has for the most part stayed out of the mudslinging, though she has, on occasion, also criticized Hill’s policies. Hill’s campaign has primarily focused on his track record as supervisor, though he doesn’t hesitate to criticize Carpenter’s behavior on the City Council.

The candidates have also leaned heavily on fundraising to compile some of the biggest war chests in any of the supervisory elections this year.

According to their most recent campaign filings, the trio has raised a collective $319,000 since January 2015.

Hill so far has raised the second most of any supervisory candidate this election with $172,936 — just under the $178,000 that District 5 incumbent Debbie Arnold has garnered for her campaign to win another term. Carpenter has raised $77,911, and Peterson trailed with $65,104.

District 3 encompasses Edna Valley, Avila Beach, Pismo Beach, Grover Beach and part of San Luis Obispo.

If no one candidate emerges from the June 7 primary with 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters will move on to the Nov. 8 general election.

Adam Hill, candidate for San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors' 3rd District seat, answers the question: What is the most important issue facing the district?

Adam Hill

Hill was elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2008 with little to no experience in public governance, having taught literature and writing at Cal Poly for 13 years.

Throughout his current campaign, Hill has styled himself as the practical candidate, often citing his track record on the board, such as his work establishing the 900-acre Pismo Preserve, pursuing a new terminal at the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport, working on the county’s 50Now initiative to house the homeless, being an advocate for bringing desalinated water into the county via Diablo Canyon, and helping to improve the county’s economy and create a technology hub.

In an editorial board meeting with The Tribune, Hill said he supports state control of the Paso Robles groundwater basin in light of the voters’ resounding rejection of a proposal to create a local management district, as well as continuing county involvement in addressing air quality concerns on the Nipomo Mesa. Hill has also said he expects to oppose the Phillips 66 rail spur proposal, which looks to be headed for a hearing before the Board of Supervisors sometime after the November election.

Though he has the board experience, Hill often comes under fire for what his detractors term “bullying” behavior behind the dais. At a League of Women Voters and Latino Outreach Council forum on Wednesday, Hill briefly addressed those concerns:

“It’s true that I’m passionate and heartfelt and sometimes impatient about what we do, but you know what? I know how to get things done,” he said.

He has managed to rack up the most endorsements from public officials: all but one member of the Grover Beach City Council (excluding Councilman Jeff Lee) has endorsed Hill, as well as state Sen. Bill Monning, Pismo Beach City Council members Erik Howell and Sheila Blake, San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx and San Luis Obispo council members John Ashbaugh and Carlyn Christianson. Hill also has support from Oceano Community Services District board member Matthew Guerrero and Los Osos Community Services District board member Jon-Erik Storm.

Other notable endorsees listed on Hill’s website are Cuesta College trustee Barbara George; San Luis Coastal School District trustee Chris Ungar; San Luis Obispo County Treasurer, Tax Collector and Public Administrator Jim Erb; Mid-State Fair Board member David Baldwin; former San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Jim Patterson; former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell and former state Controller Steve Westly.

Dan Carpenter, candidate for San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors' District 3 seat, answers the question: What is the most important issue facing the district?

Dan Carpenter

Carpenter characterizes his campaign as a grass-roots effort to restore “respectful leadership to San Luis Obispo County.”

“Elect me and we will have respectful leadership that listens, even when we disagree on issues,” Carpenter said at the League of Women voters forum. “I promise transparency in all discussions, no backroom deals, and I’ll be accessible. My office hours will be out in the district, not here on the floor.” (The forum was held in the Board of Supervisors chambers.)

Carpenter, an eight-year councilman on the San Luis Obispo City Council, has run primarily on an anti-Hill platform, though he also draws on his voting record on the council as evidence of his viability as a supervisor.

While on the City Council, Carpenter approved the Los Osos Valley Road interchange project and a $65 million wastewater treatment plant upgrade, helped implement a citywide economic strategic plan, set up an infrastructure investment fund, and added 2,100 acre-feet to the city’s water supply from Nacimiento Lake.

In an editorial board meeting with The Tribune, Carpenter said he supports county control of the Paso Robles groundwater basin through the local flood control district, in light of voters’ rejection of the proposed management district. He said he believes the air quality concerns on the Nipomo Mesa are a natural occurrence, and there is little the county can do to control them. During that same meeting, Carpenter said he was hesitant to outright say he was in opposition to the Phillips 66 rail spur, though as part of the San Luis Obispo City Council, he signed a letter by Mayor Jan Marx opposing the project.

Some of Carpenter’s other campaign platforms are encouraging and supporting local small businesses and job creation, keeping open space and creating reliable water policies.

Though he has fewer endorsements from current elected officials — Pismo Beach Mayor Shelly Higginbotham, Pismo Beach City Councilman Ed Waage, Paso Robles City Councilman Jim Reed, Templeton Community Services District board member Gwen Pelfrey, Templeton Area Advisory Group member Bill Pelfrey and Ground Squirrel Hollow Community Services District member Allen Duckworth are all listed on his website as supporters — he does have endorsements from several former elected figures, such as former Supervisor Jerry Lenthall, former San Luis Obispo Mayor Dave Romero, former San Luis Obispo City Councilwoman Dodie Williams and retired Congresswoman Andrea Seastrand.

Carpenter also lists among his endorsements former San Luis Obispo police Chief Steve Gessell, who was placed on administrative leave and ultimately left the city in 2015.

Debbie Peterson, candidate for San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors' District 3 seat, answers the question: What is the most important issue facing the district?

Debbie Peterson

Peterson has for the most part stayed out of the back-and-forth between Hill and Carpenter, and thus out of the spotlight in a race characterized by nonstop accusations of boorish behavior on the dais.

Peterson, who owns Peterson Team Realty, often characterizes herself as a businesswoman running for public office, with many of her stances on the issues coming from that perspective.

“Certainly that experience in business has been very helpful,” she said at the League of Women Voters forum. “Business is the lifeblood of our communities. If we don’t have businesses, we don’t have jobs. And if we don’t have business, we don’t have taxes paid. So it’s very important to me to be supportive of local business and small businesses in particular.”

Peterson has 10 years experience in city governance, starting in 2005 on the Grover Beach Planning Commission. She was elected to the City Council in 2008, and then mayor in 2012 (she was ousted by Mayor John Shoals in 2014).

She said some of her top achievements during her time with the city were working on approving and defeating an appeal of the Grover Beach Lodge and Conference Center and beginning work on Measure K-14, which allows the city to sell bonds to repair its aging roads.

In an editorial board meeting with The Tribune, Peterson said she supports county control of the Paso Robles groundwater basin through the local flood control district, and some county involvement in addressing air quality concerns on the Nipomo Mesa, though she said she thought the majority of the issues should be addressed by State Parks and the county Air Pollution Control District. During that same meeting, Peterson also said she ardently opposed the Phillips 66 rail spur proposal because she felt it represented a significant safety concern.

Other issues Peterson has championed are “smart growth” — not building until there is a sustainable water supply that can support more developments and ensuring that the proper infrastructure is in place before the projects are approved — and being fiscally responsible with the county’s budget.

Her endorsements include the Associated Builders and Contractors Central California chapter; former Grover Beach mayors Dave Ekbom, Jack Kean, Peter Keith and Rich Neufeld; U.S. Senate candidate Clive Grey; and state of California Parks and Recreation Commissioner and Santa Maria School Board member Diana Perez.

Candidates at a Glance

Dan Carpenter

Age: 62

Education: Bachelor of Science in business management from Cal Poly

Family: wife Sandy, four children and three grandchildren

Occupation: San Luis Obispo City Councilman and commercial property owner with Carpenter Family Trust

Previous employment: bookstore department manager with Cal Poly Foundation

Previous public offices: City Council since 2010, prior San Luis Obispo Planning Commission and Cultural Heritage Committee

Why he is running: “I’m running to return respectful leadership back to the 3rd District providing decorous dialogue with all residents. I pledge to provide the highest level of transparency and accessibility to the people in SLO County. I will advocate for a smaller more efficient government, personal responsibility and private property rights protection.”

Adam Hill

Age: 50

Education: Bachelor of Science in political science from University of Maryland; Master of Arts in English from Fresno State; Master of Fine Arts in writing from Louisiana State University

Family: wife Dee Torres-Hill, three children

Occupation: County supervisor, District Three

Previous employment: Cal Poly, Faculty, Dept of English 1995-2008, taught literature and writing

Previous public offices: none

Why he is running: “To make sure important projects I’ve led and policies I’ve shaped get finished for our community: opening Pismo Preserve, bringing desalinated water into South County, major improvements on Hwy 227, open new airport terminal, Laura’s Law implemented, 50Now leading to new housing for homeless and next stage of economic development project.”

Debbie Peterson

Age: 59

Education: Bachelor of Science in communications from University of Idaho

Family: son, age 19

Occupation: Real Estate Broker, Peterson Team Realty

Previous employment: CEO, California Cake & Cookie Ltd

Previous public offices: Grover Beach mayor 2012-14, Grover Beach city council member 2008-12, Grover Beach Planning Commissioner 2004-08 (chair 2007-08)

Why she is running: “The qualities that inspire best business also create good governance — open communication, collaborative problem solving, accessibility, and pursuit of the highest standards. I am running to uphold the ideals that are the foundation of our nation; to be a good steward of county assets and resources, specifically to ensure long-term sustainable water, adequate roads and highways, and financial accountability.”

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