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Government and Politics

SLO Tribune Opinion Editor on how its editorial board endorses candidates ahead of June 7 primary

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Benjamin Purper
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One of San Luis Obispo's ballot drop off boxes.

The June primary election is this tomorrow, June 7. One key aspect of a candidate’s campaign is endorsements, which can come from elected officials, organizations, individuals and more.

One major source of endorsement is from newspaper editorial boards, and the San Luis Obispo Tribune has released their own list of chosen candidates.

It’s important to note that editorial boards like the Tribune’s are separate from the news department, which is meant to be objective in its reporting. It’s not the reporters or new editors doing the endorsing.

Stephanie Finucane is the Opinion Editor for the SLO Tribune.

"We certainly rely heavily on the reporting that our reporters do in terms of their coverage of past decisions," Finucane said. "But they're separate and apart from the editorial board. They don't have any input into the decision making process."

Finucane wrote a recap this month describing the paper’s endorsements for local races like Board of Supervisors, County Clerk-Recorder and Superior Court Judges.

Finucane said the board's process for choosing a candidate to endorse has a few layers to it.

"First of all, we invite the candidates to sit down with us. We also look at their voting records if they are public officials, [and] we consult with members of our community advisory board."

Finucane said providing context on candidates like this is important, especially amid a moment of very low voter turnout.

The number of people who vote is usually low in primary elections, but SLO County Clerk-Recorder Elaino Cano told KCBX in an email that the county’s turnout seems especially low at this point. As of June 2, only about 17% of registered voters in SLO County had returned their ballots.

Cano said that as of noon today, the office had received approximately 16,000 ballots in one week and reached about 43,000 ballots in total returned around noon Monday. She noted that while turnout is still low, many more ballots have been coming in, as she predicted.

But turnout varies among parties. Finucane says the local Republican Party is especially well-organized and skilled at getting conservatives to vote, which will likely heavily impact some races, like South County’s District 4.

Undecided or “decline to state” voters not registered with a party are also a sizable and influential chunk of voters.

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Benjamin Purper
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"As of May 31, there [were] 15,680 Republicans in District 4 and 13,764 Democrats, which is a difference of just about 2,000. Now there's 7,624 decline-to-state voters, so they're going to have a huge impact on this race if they come out to vote," Finucane said.

The District 4 race between incumbent supervisor Lynn Compton and Arroyo Grande City Councilmember Jimmy Paulding was one major race the Tribune Editorial Board weighed in on. They invited both candidates for an interview — Paulding accepted but Compton declined — and looked at their statements during community forums. They also examined the candidate’s campaigning style, looking for dishonesty or bad faith arguments.

Finucane said while no candidate is perfect, they ended up endorsing Paulding after seeing what they call his bipartisan support and responsiveness to constituents, among other things.

"We need a change in leadership," Finucane said. "I think we need a board that's more willing to compromise. We've seen the lack of compromise do great harm to this county, for instance with the redistricting. The board majority was not willing to budge with that. It was not willing to budge on the issue of campaign contribution limits. It was not willing to budge on the issue of appointing an independent redistricting commission.

KCBX reached out to Supervisor Compton for a comment on the editorial board’s opinion and did not hear back.

All California active registered voters should have received a vote-by-mail ballot for the primary on June 7. In order for a ballot to be counted it must be postmarked before or on Election Day and be received in the Clerk-Recorder’s office no later than 7 days after Election Day. It can also be dropped off by the voter to any official ballot drop box by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

The SLO County Clerk-Recorder’s website has more information on voting, election results and candidates.

Corrected: June 7, 2022 at 3:58 PM PDT
A previous version of this article said about 16,000 ballots were returned by Monday, but it should said about 16,000 ballots were returned in one week, and about 43,000 were returned in total Monday afternoon. The article has been corrected.
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