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Paulding, Ortiz-Legg, Gibson take leads in SLO County supervisor elections 

Even after two years of intense campaigning in South County, Jimmy Paulding said he had no idea what to expect on June 7 when the preliminary results for his 4th District county supervisor race posted shortly after 8 p.m.

What they immediately showed: signs of an upset and a great night for the Arroyo Grande City Council member, who was taking a second crack at ousting incumbent Supervisor Lynn Compton of Nipomo, whom he narrowly lost to in a 2018 matchup.

click to enlarge ELECTION NIGHT JOY Dawn Ortiz-Legg celebrates a big early lead in her 3rd District county supervisor race at an election party at SLO Brew Rock. Preliminary results showed that the incumbent supervisor, who was appointed in 2020, had a 64.9 percent to 31.8 percent lead on challenger Stacy Korsgaden. - PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • Photo By Jayson Mellom
  • ELECTION NIGHT JOY Dawn Ortiz-Legg celebrates a big early lead in her 3rd District county supervisor race at an election party at SLO Brew Rock. Preliminary results showed that the incumbent supervisor, who was appointed in 2020, had a 64.9 percent to 31.8 percent lead on challenger Stacy Korsgaden.

As of our press time, Paulding held a 58.3 percent to 41.7 percent edge on Compton, a lead of 1,594 votes.

"It was a surprise, it was," Paulding told New Times by phone on June 8. "I had no idea: Were we going to be close like 2018? Were we going to be up? It makes sense, though, based on the interactions we were having with people door-to-door. We had a good feeling."

Paulding's race wasn't the only promising early result for local Democrats hoping to flip a conservative SLO County Board of Supervisors majority that's held court since 2017.

In the 3rd District, incumbent Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg had a 64.9 percent to 31.8 percent edge on challenger Stacy Korsgaden. Another challenger, Arnold Ruiz, got 3.3 percent of the preliminary vote.

The blue trend continued in the 2nd District, where incumbent Supervisor Bruce Gibson held 53 percent of the early vote, leading challengers Bruce Jones, Geoff Auslen, and John Whitworth, who each got 16.8 percent, 16.8 percent, and 13.5 percent, respectively.

That race will go on to November if Gibson's vote dips below a 50 percent threshold with the final tally. If it does, he'll face the next highest finisher in a two-man runoff. If it remains above 50 percent, then the Cayucos resident will have won his fifth term in office.

"It's certainly heading in the right direction," Gibson told New Times. "We're really pleased with the margin we see right now, but there are still quite a number of ballots to be counted."

According to SLO County Clerk-Recorder Elaina Cano, there are thousands of ballots still outstanding. Cano told New Times that her office is still processing all of the mail-in ballots that were returned on or after the afternoon of Monday, June 6.

The election night results include the mail-in ballots returned by or before the afternoon of June 6, as well as the ballots completed on June 7 at polling places in person. The next round of ballot counting will happen on Friday, June 10, Cano said, with a new update of results expected that afternoon.

Cano said SLO County's turnout is hovering at about 25 percent, which is historically low, although higher than the statewide turnout for this primary. She expects that percentage to tick up as the remaining ballots are processed.

She noted that only 2,366 voters chose to vote at the polls on Election Day this year, an unprecedented low.

"We've never seen anything like it," Cano said.

The SLO County supervisor candidates who trailed after election night quickly pointed out that many more ballots are still left to count. Auslen, of Atascadero, one of Gibson's challengers for District 2, said he's confident he will surge ahead of fellow challenger Jones and push Gibson to a runoff.

"With that many ballots still out there, it's anybody's game," Auslen said. "I think we're going to November."

Similarly, Jones, of Templeton, said in an email: "We are waiting till we see the real results when all the ballots are counted."

The uncertainty around the final results, though, didn't stop the leading candidates from reflecting on their campaigns and looking ahead to a potential changing of the guard on the Board of Supervisors in 2023.

Gibson said that a shake-up of the current board majority of Compton, 1st District Supervisor John Peschong, and 5th District Supervisor Debbie Arnold—who often vote in a bloc—would be significant and open up "opportunities to make progress in this county on a whole bunch of different fronts."

When New Times asked Paulding about his role in possibly breaking up the board majority, he said it was a big part of what he ran on.

"People were fired up and ready to change the direction our county is going," Paulding said. "I think we can achieve a culture shift within the county and the organization where we're lifting people up instead of tearing them down and we're really trying to find solutions and solve problems." Δ

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