Our post-election awards: The good, the bad, and the cringe-worthy

Heidi Harmon speaks to crowd after taking early lead in SLO Mayor race

San Luis Obispo mayoral candidate Heidi Harmon speaks to her supporters as the early votes come in during her election night party among a large group of supporters at Kreuzberg Cafe in downtown SLO. Harmon is vying for her second term as mayor.
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San Luis Obispo mayoral candidate Heidi Harmon speaks to her supporters as the early votes come in during her election night party among a large group of supporters at Kreuzberg Cafe in downtown SLO. Harmon is vying for her second term as mayor.


The 2018 mid-term election is finally over. But before we close the book, we offer our congratulations to the winners, condolences to the losers, and a last look at some of the highs and lows of the 2018 election season.

Most decisive win: SLO Progressives

In the end, it wasn’t even close. San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon, a leader in the local progressive movement, finished more than 20 percentage points ahead of Keith Gurnee, who was backed by an older, more conservative establishment opposed to the level of development that’s been occurring downtown and in residential neighborhoods.

Slow-growth advocates were shut out of the City Council as well, signaling approval of an agenda that includes affordable housing, clean energy and alternative modes of transportation.

Hello, bike lanes, tiny homes and solar panels?

Best trend: Paso Robles elects a woman

Maria Elena Garcia won a seat on the council, becoming just the third woman in city history to serve on the council — and the first elected since 1984.

Congrats, Maria, may many more women follow in your footsteps.

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Asking the Tough Questions

This election matters. From local city council races to California’s ballot propositions, The Tribune is committed to providing the best political coverage on the Central Coast.

And after the ballots are counted, our reporters work to hold elected officials accountable and ask the tough questions you need answered.

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Biggest disappointment: Runaway campaign spending

Dialysis companies spent $111 million to defeat Proposition 8, which would have limited their revenue. Landlords invested nearly $70 million in their campaign against Proposition 10, which would have made it easier for cities to pass rent control measures. And ambulance companies poured nearly $30 million into the campaign to support Proposition 11, which requires ambulance crews to remain on call during their break times.

Locally, oil companies shelled out $8 million on a No on Measure G campaign that repeated the same tired mantra over and over and over again: Measure G goes too far! Measure G goes too far! Measure G goes too far!

What really went too far was the ridiculous amount spent by corporations; if they’ve got that much money to burn, maybe they can invest in something more worthwhile, like price breaks for their customers or, in the case of oil companies, clean energy.

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Biggest relief: Survival of the statewide gas tax

The defeat of Proposition 6 means pothole repairs and regional projects, including improvement of the dangerous Highway 41/46 interchange, can move forward. It won’t get better overnight, but we’re finally on the road to fixing our long-neglected infrastructure.

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Runner-up: No new property tax breaks for older homeowners

Voters had the good sense to defeat Proposition 5, which would have expanded Proposition 13 tax benefits for homeowners over 55, and cost local governments and schools billions of dollars.

Biggest transformation: Arroyo Grande

A new guard was swept into office: It looks like Caren Ray will replace Jim Hill as mayor, and Jimmy Paulding, who lost a tight race for county supervisor in June, will sit on the council, along with newcomer Keith Storton.

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Best performance by a newcomer (tie): Dawn Addis in Morro Bay and Erica Stewart in San Luis Obispo

Both were first-time candidates who won city council seats in highly competitive races. May this be the start of long and successful careers in politics.

Weirdest campaign allegation: Mayor Heidi Harmon was spotted in a car

Cal Coast News reported that Mayor Harmon, an avowed environmentalist, rode a bicycle to a City Council meeting, then accepted a ride home from the city manager. On the 1-10 scale of scandal, we give that a negative 11.

Cringiest campaign moment: Declaring Nimby the “new N-word”

In a missive he wrote for Cal Coast News, SLO mayoral candidate Keith Gurnee — who campaigned for neighborhood preservation — lamented that “NIMBY is the new N-word.” It’s not.

Most underhanded move: Slate mailers that made it appear the Democrats opposed Measure G

They didn’t.

Dumbest move: Defacing campaign signs for Arroyo Grande Mayor Jim Hill

Stealing signs isn’t cool, either.

Biggest head scratcher: Morro Bay

The election was widely regarded as a referendum on the controversial sewer/wastewater reclamation project, yet voters sent a mixed message. Councilman John Headding, a supporter of the project as currently configured, has a slim lead over John Weiss, an outspoken critic of the project. And while Dawn Addis, a project supporter, won one of two council seats, the other went to Jeff Heller, who wants the sewer moved to a different location.

Sleaziest campaign: Justin Fareed

Early on, he accused Rep. Salud Carbajal of accepting a campaign donation from a “Nazi collaborator” — a reference to a $1,000 donation from Jonathan Soros, son of billionaire businessman, philanthropist and Democratic mega-donor George Soros. (Fareed later issued a half-hearted retraction.)

More recently, he called on Carbajal to return a $20,000 donation from a political action committee chaired by a Los Angeles lawmaker accused in a civil case of the sexual assault of a 17-year-old girl. And for good measure, Fareed’s supporters threw in old accusations about Carbajal’s personal financial struggles.

None of that worked; Fareed lost to Carbajal by an even larger margin this time around.

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Moral victory award: The Measure G campaign

In a classic David vs. Goliath campaign, the oil industry amassed $8 million, while the Yes on G campaign raised $240,000, and much of that was in non-monetary contributions.

Goliath won this round, but that doesn’t mean the fight is over.

Participation award: Morro Bay voters

Based on the preliminary ballot count, you had the highest turn-out.

Most room for improvement: San Luis Obispo voters

When it comes turn-out, you came in dead last, but not to worry. That means you can only get better in 2020.