By KAREN VELIE
The stakes are high for San Luis Obispo County’s 2022 primary election. Conservatives are battling to maintain Republican control of the Board of Supervisors, while progressive Democrats are backing their preferred candidates in what is likely to be three close races
Nine candidates are vying for supervisorial seats in districts 2, 3 and 4. Even though the races are nonpartisan, political heavyweights on both sides are donating to their favorite politically connected candidates.
For 16 years, Supervisor Bruce Gibson has held a tight grip on the District 2 supervisor seat, usually garnering about 60% of the votes from the primarily Democratic district, but that was before redistricting.
The district now runs along the coast from San Simeon to Cayucos, and inland picking up San Miguel, Heritage Ranch and Atascadero. It currently has 1,445 more Republicans than Democrats.
Gibson, a Democrat, is facing three Republican challengers: Dr. Bruce Jones, Geoff Auslen and John Whitworth.
Gibson, a resident of Cayucos, raised $106,357 in total contributions in 2022.
Gibson’s largest donors include a proponent of privatizing water, developer Gary Grossman, the Democratic Party and several unions. The single largest donor to Gibson’s campaign is Democrats of SLO which donated $11,300.
Steve Lohr , of J Lohr Vineyards, was a former director of the Paso Robles Agriculture Alliance for Groundwater Solutions (PRAAGS), a group that promoted the ballot measure to privatize the Paso Robles ground water basin. Nearly 80% of voters rejected the measure. Nevertheless, Gibson and others continue to promote water banking and privatization.
Jerome Lohr, also of J Lohr Vineyards, donated $5,000 to Gibson’s campaign.
Dr. Bruce Jones is a retired orthopedic surgeon and the former chair of the Templeton Area Advisory Group. Jones raised $50,099 in total contributions from Jan. 1 through April 23. He also loaned himself $50,000, for a total of $100,099 in campaign funding.
Jones received $5,000 donations from both Gibson’s next door neighbor John Keely and Alison Pfister, a landlord. Philanthropist Molly Hughes donated $4,900 to Jones’ campaign.
Geoff Auslen, a small engine mechanic and the owner of Glenn’s Repair and Rental, raised $52,824 in total contributions from Jan. 1 through April 23. He also loaned himself $25,000, for a total of $77,824 in campaign funding in 2022.
Auslen’s largest contribution was a transfer of $8,446 from his previous fundraising filing, Friends of Auslen for Supervisor. His largest donor, construction manager Aaron Uls, donated $5,000. Auslin also received $2,500 from both Solar Ponics and Atascadero Grocery Outlet.
John Whitworth spent 30 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He raised $300 in total contributions and lent his campaign $5,750, for a total of $6,050 in campaign funding.
Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Dawn Ortiz-Legg in Nov. 2020 to to fill in for former supervisor Adam Hill, who committed suicide after FBI agents raided his home and his office in the county building.
Democrat Ortiz-Legg, Republican Stacey Korsgaden and Arnold Ruiz — decline to state, are vying to finish the remaining two years of Hill’s term.
The district includes Grover Beach, Pismo Beach, Avila Beach and a portion of San Luis Obispo. It has 5,729 more Democrats than Republicans.
Before joining the Board of Supervisors, Ortiz-Legg served as former supervisor Hill’s appointee on the SLO County Planning Commission. She raised $144,210 in total contributions between Jan. 1 and April 23.
Ortiz-Legg’s largest donors include several developers, the Democratic Party and several unions. The single largest donor to Ortiz-Legg’s campaign is Democrats of SLO which donated $11,300.
Developer Nick Tompkins, Boutique Hotel Collection and the IBEW each donated $5,000 to Ortiz-Legg’s campaign.
Notable contributors to Ortiz-Legg’s campaign include multiple people tied to former supervisor Hill, including Hill’s former administrative assistant Susan Devine, political consultant Tom Fulks, former SLO councilman John Ashbaugh and the law firm of Democratic heavyweight Don Ernst.
Korsgaden, who owns and runs a local insurance agency, raised $75,169 in total contributions in 2022.
The Dolphin Bay Resort was the single largest donor to Korsgaden’s campaign in 2022, donating $10,300 in costs to host a fundraiser. She also received $5,000 from Michael Mullahey of Mullahey Ford, $2,500 from real estate agent Stella Ramirez and $1,422 from Larry Bittner, retired.
Arnold Ruiz is a retired resident of San Luis Obispo. He is not raising campaign funds.
Republican incumbent Supervisor Lynn Compton and Democrat Jimmy Paulding are in a contentious battle to lead District 4, which includes Nipomo, Arroyo Grande, Edna Valley, the SLO Country Club area and Pozo. The district currently has 1,962 more Republicans than Democrats.
Pauling is an attorney and Arroyo Grande councilman. He raised $125,246 in total contributions in 2022.
Paulding’s largest donors are unions and Democratic groups. The Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, a union out of Los Angeles, donated $12,500 to Paulding’s campaign.
Large donors also include Democrats of SLO which donated $11,300, the IBEW which donated $5,000 and a sheet metal workers union which donated $4,700.
First elected in 2014, Compton raised $108,271 in total contributions in 2022.
Compton’s largest donation was $5,000 from the Lincoln Club of SLO, a conservative group. The Republican Party of San Luis Obispo spent $4,632 purchasing signs for Compton’s campaign.
Compton also received $3,000 from retired county resident Richard Nicole; and $2,500 donations from developer Richard Spencer, the Central Coast Home Builders Association, David Crye engineering and Drake Excavating and Aggregator.
If a candidate for supervisor receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the June 7 primary, they will win the election outright. If no one in a district race wins in June, the top two candidates will head to a November runoff.