Election Wrap-Up

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

March 28, 2024

Though votes were still being counted by the County Clerk-Recorder’s Office, the races in the March Primary are pretty much concluded. And November’s races are starting to come into focus.

County Clerk’s Timeline

County Clerk-Recorder Elaina Cano announced a timeline for when that she expects her office to be done with the election count. Her aim is to announce the final results by the prescribed deadline of 30 days from Election Day (including weekends). 

The deadline for finalizing and taking the results to County Supervisors for certification is April 4. While it may seem like forever to get final results, given all that must be done to ensure the count, it no doubt flies by.

“All ballot processing and tabulating,” Cano said, “must be open to the public, however, so while some staff may work on weekends, certain steps can only be taken during business hours. Once other critical steps are taken into account, such as immediately inventorying all materials returned from the polls, the Elections Office really only has about 16 business days to complete a lengthy list of tasks.”

The Non-Local Election

This March Primary ballot was bereft of local races for voters in the Estero Bay Area — Morro Bay, Los Osos and Cayucos — but there was a key County Supervisor Election for the 5th District seat being vacated by the retiring Debbie Arnold.

In that race, Atascadero Mayor Heather Moreno leads Atascadero Councilwoman, Susan Funk 56.4% to 43.6%. Out of a total of 16,896 votes counted, Moreno has garnered 9,068 and Funk 7,010. Turnout was just 50.85% in District 5, which covers Atascadero, Cal Poly (portion), California Valley, Creston, Garden Farms, Pozo, San Luis Obispo (portion), Santa Margarita, and Templeton (portion), according to the County District Map.

Two Get Easy Ride

The other two Supervisor Districts up for election were uncontested, as Dist. 1 incumbent Supervisor John Peschong was unopposed for re-election and Dist. 3’s Dawn Ortiz-Legg was only challenged by a weak write-in campaign.

In SLO County results, Peschong is listed as getting 100% of the vote, with 11,117 total votes. Some 5,501 voters left the race blank. 

There were just 16,618 votes cast or 47.04% of the registered district voters. Dist. 1 includes Adelaide, Cholame, Lake Nacimiento, Oak Shores, Paso Robles, San Miguel, Shandon, Templeton (portion), and Whitley Gardens, according to the County’s map. 

Dist. 3 a Walkover

Dist. 3 Supervisor, Ortiz-Legg, who was appointed to the board in 2020 after the suicide of former Supervisor Adam Hill, and won the seat for a partial term in 2022, was now running for a full 4-year term.

She was unopposed on the ballot; however, a write-in candidate emerged who didn’t appear on the printed ballots. Michelle Marie Morrow garnered 838 write-in votes.

Dist. 3 covers Avila Beach, SLO Country Club, Edna-Los Ranchos, Edna Valley (portion), Grover Beach, Pismo Beach, Rolling Hills Estates, San Luis Obispo (portion), Shell Beach, Squire Canyon, and Sunset Palisades.

Dist. 30 State Assembly incumbent Dawn Addis will face off with Dalila Epperson in the November elections.

Addis Leads

In the Dist. 30 State Assembly race, Democrat incumbent Dawn Addis of Morro Bay finished ahead of Republican challenger, Dalila Epperson, garnering 41,825 votes (55.06%) to 34,140 (44.94%). 

Because of California’s Top-2 open primary system, both women will be in the General Election runoff in November.

Turnout here was about half. With 158,197 registered voters (from SLO County) 79,926 actually voted. Nearly 4,000 voters left the race blank on their ballots.

Dist. 30 includes all of SLO County plus the coastal areas of Monterey and up into Santa Cruz County. 

District wide, according to the Secretary of State’s election results, Addis leads with 63.1% (86,695) to Epperson’s 36.9% (50,636).

State Senator John Laid and Tony Virrueta will go head-to-head for the Dist. 17 State Senate race in November.

Laird, Virrueta to Runoff 

In the Dist. 17 State Senate race, incumbent Democrat John Laird was leading in SLO County, in a 3-person race with 53.87% (36,436 votes); second place was Republican challenger and military veteran, Tony Virrueta (19,430, 28.73%); and C.S.U. Monterey Bay Professor, Eric Tao, was third (10,404, 15.38%). 

State Senate Dist. 17 encompasses Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Benito, and San Luis Obispo Counties. In the State’s results, Laird has 64.7% (142,400) of the votes; Virrueta has 21.8% (47,972); and Tao 11.5% (25,381).

Congress Seat Runoff

In the race for Congressional Dist. 24, incumbent Democrat Salud Carbajal got 55.56% (30,468 votes) of the votes in SLO County. Republican challenger, Thomas Cole got 38.30% (21,003); and third went to Helena Pasquarella with 6.14% (3,306).

District wide, Carbajal was at 53.9% (101,181); Cole at 37.2% (69,901); and Pasquarella at 8.9% (16,718). 

Dist. 24 includes all of SLO and Santa Barbara Counties and part of Ventura County. Carbajal and Cole will now face off in November.

U.S. Senate

In the race for a full U.S. Senate term replacing the late-Diane Feinstein, SLO County voters leaned towards Republican and retired pro baseball player, Steve Garvey, who garnered 36.37% (31,082 votes) in a very crowded field. 

Democrat Congressman Adam Schiff of Hollywood was the next best finisher at 34.78% (29,729); followed by Democratic Katie Porter at 11.55% (9,870). The race had 27 total candidates. 

Schiff and Garvey lead the race statewide as well in a neck-and-neck contest. Schiff held a slight advantage garnering 31.6% of the votes (2,288,820) to Garvey’s 31.5% (2,279,870). Porter is third with 15.3% (1,109,701).

Partial Senate Term

Feinstein’s death also left an unfilled term to serve out, though it’ll only last for a few weeks before the full term winner is sworn in.

Garvey leads that partial-term race with 33.2% (2,430,724) to Schiff’s 29.3% (2,145,802); Porter is third there too with 17.2% (1,261,685).

In the only statewide ballot measure, Measure 1, voters were nearly evenly split in support and opposition.

Measure 1 is a $6.4 billion bond measure that would change how counties provide some services to mental health care, including drug and alcohol abuse; and allow the State to borrow up to $6.38 billion to further the cause. 

Measure 1 was approved by the narrowest of margins, with 560.2% (3,609,814) to 49.8% (3,580,585).

November Shapes Up

And while no Morro Bay council seats were on the ballot this time, there is some news to report on the local political front. Estero Bay News has confirmed that Harbor Advisory Board Member Bill Luffee and former HAB member, Jeff Eckles, are both planning to run for City Council, as two seats will be contested in November.

According to City Clerk Dana Swanson, Luffee filed a Form 501 (Candidate Intention Statement) declaring his intentions to run and also formed a “candidate-controlled” committee “and can receive contributions and spend funds related to his campaign,” Swanson told EBN. 

Eckles, she said, had not yet filed that notice of intent with her office. Incumbent Councilwomen Laurel Barton and Jen Ford are reportedly not going to run for re-election.

Eckles ran for Dist. 2 County Supervisor, losing to Incumbent Bruce Gibson in what was Gibson’s fourth Supervisor Election win. (Gibson also won a fifth term in 2022.)

Incumbent Mayor Carla Wixom has also said that she too plans to run for re-election in November.

“Mayor Wixom,” the City Clerk said, “has an open committee from the 2022 election but has not filed a candidate intention statement or re-designated remaining funds toward the 2024 election.”

Wixom told EBN that it was still early to be thinking about re-election campaigning. 

The official nomination period, according to Swanson, runs from July 15-Aug. 9, provided all of the incumbents do run. If any officially bow out, the deadline would be extended to Aug. 14.

If any readers in Morro Bay decide to run for office, they are encouraged to contact reporter Neil Farrell if they wish to make a public announcement, email: neil@esterobaynews.com.

Initiative on Power Plant

Morro Bay voters in November will also be deciding a voter initiative, Measure A-24 that would lock in the current zoning of the Morro Bay Power Plant property. 

Though it applies specifically to the west side of the Embarcadero area from Beach Street out to Morro Rock and includes the over 100-acre power plant property, it would most affect plant owner Vistra’s plans to build a 600 megawatt Battery Energy Storage System or BESS.

If A-24 passes, Vistra would have to ask voters to approve any zoning change needed for its project.

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