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Paulding out to big fundraising lead as SLO County supervisor races heat up 

Seven candidates are competing for three open seats on the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors in the upcoming June primary election. And that field could get more crowded soon, as the county officially opened the nomination period for candidates on Feb. 13.

Thus far, Arroyo Grande City Councilmember Jimmy Paulding is substantially outraising his counterparts—his supervisor campaign brought in $330,500 in 2021, according to campaign finance records. The other candidates raised a combined $465,901, with Paulding's opponent, incumbent 4th District Supervisor Lynn Compton, leading the rest with $165,173 in contributions.

At press time, three incumbents and four challengers were vying for the open seats in Districts 2, 3, and 4 in what could be the first election held under SLO County's new redistricting map, pending the outcome of a lawsuit that's challenging its partisan tilt.

The new map dramatically shifts the district boundaries. While the District 2 and 4 elections will look markedly different under the new lines, the District 3 race will use its old boundary—since it determines who will finish late Supervisor Adam Hill's last term, which expires in 2024.

Collectively, their outcomes will determine the political makeup of a Board of Supervisors that's often bitterly divided. Some candidates, like Bruce Jones of Templeton and Geoff Auslen of Atascadero, just recently entered the fray. Others, like Paulding, and Stacy Korsgaden of Grover Beach, have been busy building their campaigns for many months.

click to enlarge BIG MONEY, LOCAL POLITICS In 2021, candidates for SLO County supervisor raised nearly $800,000 for their collective campaigns. - DATA COURTESY OF SLO COUNTY, GRAPHIC BY LENI LITONJUA
  • Data Courtesy Of SLO County, Graphic By Leni Litonjua
  • BIG MONEY, LOCAL POLITICS In 2021, candidates for SLO County supervisor raised nearly $800,000 for their collective campaigns.

District 4 rematch

In 2018, a then-32-year-old Paulding challenged Compton for the District 4 seat. He nearly prevailed, losing by just 60 votes, in a race that attracted nearly $1 million in combined fundraising, led by Compton.

This time, Paulding is back as an Arroyo Grande council member, a position he successfully ran for in November 2018. He announced his 2022 supervisor candidacy in early 2021, and has already amassed a war chest that exceeds that of his entire 2018 run for supervisor.

"When you look at the donations, 98 percent are coming from SLO County residents, at $173 per donation," Paulding said. "I've raised [it] from 1,200 donors, which is more donors than I had in 2018. I'm just humbled."

With aspirations to build the "largest volunteer-driven campaign in SLO County history," Paulding said he's already knocking on doors in the South County district. He said the biggest issues he hears from Five Cities voters are public safety, homelessness, and roads and infrastructure.

Reaching all voters in District 4 will be more difficult for both candidates after redistricting. The newly drawn District 4 picks up huge swaths of rural territory to the north and east—including Pozo and the California Valley, as well as most of the Edna Valley—while it drops Oceano.

Oceano supported Paulding in 2018, and the candidate called its removal from District 4 "disheartening" and "a bummer."

"It changes the partisan makeup in a way that helps her campaign," said Paulding, a registered Democrat. "But it's not a big deal to me because I'm truly running a nonpartisan campaign."

Compton, a Republican from Nipomo, voted for the redistricting map on the Board of Supervisors and said that while she likes the rural nature of its new areas, she agreed that reaching those voters will be a challenge.

"The bigger your geography, the harder it is to walk precincts. It's gonna be interesting and different," Compton said. "I'm going to be introduced to people who aren't familiar with me."

While she trails Paulding in fundraising, Compton brushed that off, saying she's just getting a late start. The two-term supervisor consulted her close friends and supporters before announcing her reelection campaign—wanting to make sure she had the necessary support to win.

"Quite honestly, I felt like last time I didn't have a lot of support. I think everyone took it for granted. They thought it was a slam dunk," Compton said of her race with Paulding in 2018. "I wanted confirmation that I'd get help."

Compton said she's proud of her record on housing, public safety, and infrastructure, and said "I feel like I've kept my word with what I wanted to do."

New District 2, new candidates

Historically a North Coast district, District 2 moved inland after redistricting, taking in the city of Atascadero and rural areas near Templeton, Paso Robles, San Miguel, and Lake Nacimiento, while dropping Morro Bay and Los Osos.

This new boundary is drawing new candidates to challenge four-term 2nd District Supervisor Bruce Gibson of Cayucos, who's running for reelection. In recent weeks, Atascadero resident Auslen and Templeton resident Jones announced their respective candidacies.

Both Auslen and Jones present themselves as conservative alternatives to Gibson, an outspoken progressive. Auslen is the owner of Glenn's Repair & Rental in Atascadero, and on his website, he touts his leadership roles in the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce and Kiwanis Club, as well as in the development of the new inclusive Joy Playground in Atascadero.

Jones, a retired orthopedic surgeon, is the chairman of the Templeton Area Advisory Group, which advises the Board of Supervisors on Templeton issues and projects.

Of the candidates, Gibson has raised the most money, bringing in $69,331 in 2021, including a $2,000 loan. Auslen raised $33,908, most of which came from a $25,000 loan. Jones has not yet submitted any campaign finance documents.

Old District 3, familiar faces

When Hill died in 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Dawn Ortiz-Legg to his seat.

A former county planning commissioner and one-time candidate for state Assembly, Ortiz-Legg hit the ground running in office, earning a reputation as a moderate who supported both local cannabis and local oil fields.

Ortiz-Legg recently announced her 2022 candidacy to finish out Hill's term, but Korsgaden was waiting for her. The Grover Beach insurance agent nearly bested Hill in the 2020 election.

A self-described moderate, Korsgaden touts her business experience and outsider viewpoint. But she faces scrutiny for having attended the Jan. 6 "Save America" rally in Washington D.C. to protest the 2020 election results.

Ortiz-Legg has a slight edge in campaign fundraising thus far, taking in $106,489 in 2021 compared to Korsgaden's $85,000, which includes a $6,000 loan. Δ

Assistant Editor Peter Johnson can be reached at pjohnson@newtimesslo.com.

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