Newsom, Funk top two for council

Heather Newsom and Susan Funk (Photos Submitted)

ATASCADERO — Polls were open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 6, but the majority of voters in Atascadero and elsewhere in the state cast a ballot by mail. That doesn’t mean everyone bought a stamp. Right up until closing time volunteers at the North County office of the San Luis Obispo Clerk-Recorder and at their main office in the County Government Center in the City of San Luis Obispo were taking ballots from motorists delivering their mail-in envelopes at drive-up booths.

Some definitive election night results were reported as of 12:48 a.m., Wednesday, Nov. 7 with the next update expected no sooner than 5 p.m., reported County Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong.

The initial results said Gong, who got somewhere in the neighborhood of three hours sleep between shifts, with 100 percent of precincts reporting, that left those almost-too-late returned ballots and provisional ballots to be tallied.

This is the second election since rule changes meant that the postmark on a ballot envelope was more important than it arriving before the election.

“We had nine-and-a-half trays of ballots arrive by mail this morning,” Gong explained on Wednesday, which means the actual number of ballots cast won’t be known until they stop accepting late arrivals on Friday. “We have no way of knowing how many were dropped in the mail yesterday.”

Updates through Friday evening will start a tally of how many remain uncounted by precinct; however some races can be called earlier.

Starting off with results available, the Atascadero Unified School District board, five candidates competed for four seats with four incumbents and a challenger running. Donn Clickard, Tami Gunther, Ray Buban, and George Shoemaker defended their positions from Bret Heinemann with 25.09, 22.40, 22.00, 19.23, 11.08 percent of the vote, respectively. That leaves the current board in effect until the next election.

For the City of Atascadero itself Mayor-elect Heather Moreno, currently Councilwoman Moreno until Dec. 11, ran unopposed but 85 write-in votes lowered her victory margin to 98.75 percent.

Gere Sibbach likewise ran unopposed for the position of Treasurer, which he already occupies, winning by 99.79 percent.

The most hotly contested of the local races, a three-way split for two open City Council seats saw Heather Newsom and Susan Funk ahead of Mark Dariz at 35.23, 34.33, and 30.31 percent, respectively.

After spending the early part of the evening with family, Newsom said, they were encouraged by early results and watched as the lead grew through updates before joining the party at the local offices servicing as Republican Headquarters and Jordan Cunningham’s party.

Perhaps a little used to a lack of sleep with a 4-month-old infant at home, she was already driving neighborhoods at 8:30 a.m. taking down campaign signs.

“I’m really excited right now. It was nice to know how many supporters I really had and see that grow,” she said, adding about the signs that, “Our community likes us to respect it when the [campaign] season is over I think.”

Regarding likely joining the Council with Funk next month she said, “we’ve both been in all the meetings leading up to this and have been sharing a respect through the process...This community is growing in amazing ways and I look forward to contributing to that.”

That 0.9 percent difference for the lead represents 115 votes separating the two women. With them joining Councilwoman Roberta Fonzi and Councilman Charles Bourbeau on the Council in December, the City will join the ranks of municipalities with majority female leadership.

“I’m delighted because I’ll get the chance to serve,” Funk said on Wednesday, “I’m really looking forward to working with Heather, Heather, Roberta and Charles and I really hope that Mark stays engaged as well.”

Adding that she can carry over her experience with a “campaign core team of all women,” she believes the cooperative experience will be “sweeter” in a way, although looking for the words to express her faith in Bourbeau as a collaborator without challenging his masculinity by the inference.

“You know, he’ll be fine,” she said. “There’s been so much national level divisiveness. People forget that at this level we just have to roll up our sleeves and work together.”

She agreed, she said, with Moreno’s vision of an overall consensus leading the community forward, “I think that’s a fair assessment.”

The City’s Measure J, which would have changed the mayoral term from two years to four years appears to have failed with a 64.98 percent no vote; while Measure E, a cannabis business tax, got a yes vote of 73.17 percent.

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