John Peschong, Steve Martin to vie for 1st District SLO County supervisor seat

John Peschong, left, talks with supporter Bronco Rudnick at Peschong’s election night party in Paso Robles.
John Peschong, left, talks with supporter Bronco Rudnick at Peschong’s election night party in Paso Robles. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

John Peschong will face Paso Robles Mayor Steve Martin in the Nov. 8 general election to fill the District 1 seat on the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors.

According to the unofficial results of Tuesday’s primary, Peschong got 45.6 percent of the vote, Martin received 35.2 percent, John Hamon got 16 percent and Dale Gustin trailed at 2.8 percent.

Peschong said he expects to have a number of debates with Martin before the final election.

“I am looking forward to discussing the issues with Steve Martin as we go to Nov. 8,” Peschong said.

Because Peschong did not secure more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary, he and Martin as the top two vote-getters will face off in the November to determine who will replace retiring Supervisor Frank Mecham.

The district seat is considered crucial because Mecham has commonly been the swing vote on many controversial issues on the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors, such as the unsuccessful proposal to build the Las Pilitas quarry near Santa Margarita and efforts to establish a management district for the Paso Robles groundwater basin.

The large 1st District includes all of Paso Robles and San Miguel and most of Templeton.

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During the campaign, the four candidates for the seat agreed on many of the issues. The area of biggest disagreement among them was whether a water management district should be formed for the Paso Robles groundwater basin. The Paso Robles City Council, on which Martin and Hamon sit, supported the formation of the district. However, Peschong, a Republican political consultant, and Gustin, a former lawyer, said they opposed the district from the start.

Civility on the Board of Supervisors will be a main challenge of whoever is elected. All of the candidates pledged to bring more civility to the board, where liberal supervisors Adam Hill and Bruce Gibson often clash with conservative supervisors Debbie Arnold and Lynn Compton.

Both Hill and Arnold were running for re-election in the primary. On Tuesday, Arnold secured more than 50 percent of the vote in the district and won a third four-year term. Hill faces a runoff with San Luis Obispo City Councilman Dan Carpenter in November.

One of the big issues the Board of Supervisors will face next year is a proposal by the oil company Phillips 66 to construct a rail spur at its Nipomo Mesa refinery to allow the delivery of crude oil by rail. All of the District 1 candidates said they supported the project but said safety would be a main concern.

Managing water will be another major challenge for the new supervisor. As Paso Robles mayor, Martin supported the formation of a water management district for the Paso Robles groundwater basin. Peschong said during the campaign that he opposed it.

Voters in the basin rejected the district, so it will be up to the county to manage the county’s five basins that are in overdraft. This could be a contentious issue in the coming term because supervisors Hill and Gibson have said they are interested in seeing whether the state should manage the Paso basin.

The five water basins in the county declared to be in overdraft by the state are Paso Robles, Los Osos, Edna Valley, Cuyama Valley and Nipomo Mesa.

At a community forum in Templeton, all of the candidates touted their conservative credentials. However, Peschong is arguably the most conservative.

A Republican, he worked for the administration of President Ronald Reagan and consulted for President George Bush and Arizona Sen. John McCain. He also picked up endorsements from conservative groups such as the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

He ran on a platform of battling gangs, reducing the size of government and lowering taxes.

Martin is arguably the most moderate. He has made improving homeless services a top priority during his time on the Paso Robles City Council. He recently proposed turning the mothballed California Youth Authority facility near Paso Robles into a homeless campus where homeless people could find permanent housing.