SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- The race for San Luis Obispo County District Four Supervisor is a rematch of a hotly contested election that went right down to the wire four years ago.
In 2018, incumbent Lynn Compton beat challenger Jimmy Paulding by a mere 60 votes. It was a highly spirited race that took more than two weeks after Election Day to finally determine a winner.
Now, four years later, the two political opponents are ready to face off once again for the right to represent the newly redrawn District Four, which includes much of south San Luis Obispo County, and stretches to the Carrizo Plain and other rural areas in eastern part of the county.
News Channel recently met with both candidates and asked them the same set of questions about the upcoming election, which will be held on Tuesday, June 7.
"I think I'm the best candidate because I'm running on my record," said Compton, a Nipomo resident, who has served as District Four Supervisor since being first elected in 2014. "I've been in office for seven years and I think we have a lot of really positive accomplishments regarding water, homelessness and housing, and so I want to continue that going forward for another four years."
"I'm running for county supervisor because I want to serve the community I grew up in and the community I love," said Arroyo Grande resident Jimmy Paulding, who was voted onto the Arroyo Grande City Council in 2018, five months after losing to Compton. "It's all about preserving and enhancing our quality of life. That's what the role of the county supervisor should be."
Each candidate was asked to describe what are the key elements to their campaign, and what are the platforms they feel are most important to their candidacy.
"Everybody's concerned about water," said Compton. "We have a demonstrated history of bringing new water into this county. We just brought in a thousand acre feet from Santa Barbara County, that's new water. We have different projects with desalination and partnerships throughout the county, so water is a huge issue. Homelessness is another huge issue that concerns a lot of my constituents. We just put together and put forward a whole new organization with the county, with new people in charge and accountability and a budget. To move forward with that, we have a detox facility. We have many programs in place, including housing for the homeless. Those are two issues. Crime, fully funding the police department is another big issue in the district. There are many. Those are probably the top three."
"Three main points," said Paulding. "The first would be wanting to unify our Board of Supervisors. Right now, we have a divided board. We have a board that's kind of ushered in an era of partisan, national partisan politics into our county government, and I think we need to try and keep the partisan politics out and focus on the issues that matter, so I would say to unify is number one. The second would be to bring integrity, transparency and accountability to the board. We have too much special interest influence in our Board of Supervisors right now, and the third and final would just be, to focus on the big issues that really matter to people in the community. I've been walking and knocking hundreds, actually, thousands now, of doors and talking with folks, and they care about making sure we have enough water for our future, that we're a safe community, that have enough deputies patrolling our streets, that we are tackling the homelessness problem that is only getting worse, and so, that's kind of my approach to local government is let's stay focused on the issues, keep the national party politics out."
In a similar follow-up question, Compton and Paulding were asked to list what they feel are the most important issues that are currently challenging the Board of Supervisors.
"When I knocked doors, I'm hearing water as the number one," said Paulding. "People are worried about the continued drought. They want to know that we're bringing in a new, reliable source of water. I've been able to work on an exciting regional project, that as an Arroyo Grande City Councilmember to bring in new water. I'm also hearing homelessness from both perspectives, the more conservative perspective is, hey, we need to reclaim our parks, our open spaces, our streets, and I would say, the more liberal perspective is, let's approach this issue with compassion and empathy, and I think there's actually a way to kind of tackle this issue from both of those perspectives, and say, let's clean up our parks, our public spaces, our beaches, and let's find a place to house these individuals, and bring them the services they need."
"Those are the top three," said Compton, reiterating her previous answer in describing water, homelessness and public safety. "People want good roads. I get a lot of calls about that. Crime, with the current changes in the California laws, it's impacting people. Their cars are getting broken into, etc., so that's on people's minds. Water and the drought continues to be an issue, as is has been since I got into office."
The candidates were then asked if there was an issue specific to District Four they felt was important to address.
"My district is a very rural district," said Compton. "I have a lot of agriculture. The strawberry market is really big down in my district, kind of like the opposite of what's going on in the north county with the grapes, so agriculture issues are very important, finding workers, communicating with the Hispanic population down there, where they're working in the fields. That was a really big issue during Covid, and protecting the health and safety of our constituents is one of my top priorities."
"One particular issue that seems to be a repeat theme as I talk to voters is the lack of law enforcement presence that we have in south county, specifically in Nipomo," said Paulding. "We only have on average two sheriff deputies that patrol the entire south county region, from Oceano out to Nipomo, all the way out to Highway 166, into the rural east side of the county, and so, that means increasing our law enforcement presence. It means making it a budget priority, and then of course, one of the projects that I want to champion is a sheriff's substation for the community of Nipomo."
The controversial subject of redistricting was then brought up, with each candidate asked to give their opinion of how they felt the process played out over the past year.
"The redistricting process in my opinion was politically motivated, largely by the incumbent," said Paulding. "We heard, I think about a year or six months prior to the redistricting, that was, or the final redistricting map that was approved by the Board of Supervisors, that the community of Oceano would no longer end up in the final map, and low and behold, that happened, and you know, that particular community had supported me over the incumbent, so I certainly do believe as we've seen a number of non-partisan groups come out and say that the map was gerrymandered to benefit a particular party, and that's incredibly problematic. It's not good for our community. We should be trying to unite our community and bring people together, not continue to further divide them."
"The redistricting was done fairly. We hired a Democrat consultant to do it. It was done in a legal manner and I'm confident we will prevail," said Compton, alluding to current litigation still going on against the new district lines. " We've prevailed so far with two appeals and I'm confident we'll prevail, and in all honesty, there's really not a big advantage for me like they accused the process of having. I'm calling on a new area. It's about 700 homes. It's pretty evenly split and it's a lot of ag land."
When Compton and Paulding faced off in 2018, it was a very spirited campaign between the two candidates. They were asked what they might of learned from that race and if there might be anything from it that could impact this election.
"I don't necessarily think past elections impact future elections," said Compton. "I mean, when I ran last time, I was running against a candidate that had no history. He had wiped clean all of his social media accounts. He didn't have any history, any imprint, any voting record, so it's a lot different this time. One of the big issues where we differ is on taxes and fees, and now he has a record, and it's fair game to go against that record. Just as it's fair game for him to go against my record, you know, it's not personal, but I am going to point out all the taxes, fees, hikes, things that he's voted for over the years."
"60 votes close," said Paulding. "That's what I lost by back in 2018, and I certainly learned a lot. It was really about, I think ten months that I had to connect with voters, and this time, I've had over 12 months to really demonstrate that I have a track record on the city council, that I have bipartisan support. I've been endorsed by three of my city council colleagues on the AG City Council, one is Republican, one is an independent, one a Democrat, and just a whole host of other endorsements, from business leaders, like Brian Talley, our local farmers, to former Arroyo Grande police chief Rick TerBorch. That level, I would say, larger community support is something that is different this time, and I really appreciate and I've received thousands of donations through the campaign all throughout the county, and I think they're averaging about $200 per person because people want to see change. They want to see the Board of Supervisors get back track in the right direction."
The final question each candidate was asked was what would a vote for them mean?
"It's for bringing transparency and accountability to our county government, and also, just a willingness to work together, to collaborate, to focus on the issues to get stuff done, kind of a rejection of this notion that it should all be about partisan politics," said Paulding. "I think that's obstructing our ability to tackle the issues that we need to tackle, and that we need to do better, and we deserve better. That's what I'm all about and that's why I'm running."
"A smaller, more efficient government, more personal freedoms and less taxes," said Compton.
For the full interview with candidate Jimmy Paulding, play the YouTube video below.
For the full interview with candidate Lynn Compton, play the YouTube video below.