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Four candidates in San Luis Obispo mayoral race face off in today's general election


Today is Election Day, and four candidates are facing off for the San Luis Obispo mayoral seat.

KCBX News has this rundown on each candidate and their priorities.

Erica Stewart

SLO Mayor Erica Stewart started off as the city’s first Black council member in 2018 and was appointed mayor after Heidi Harmon resigned three years later. She will now enter her first election as incumbent mayor.

Stewart said her campaign priorities include diversity, equity, sustainability and climate change. But she says the most important issue facing the city is increasingly unaffordable housing.

“I think we have to figure out: how do we improve more affordable housing? How do we reduce homelessness?” Stewart said, “[It] is obviously through housing, but also through mental health and substance abuse; all the reasons that people are homeless.”

Donald Hedrick

Donald Hedrick, a SLO-based welder, is running for mayor for the seventh time. Hedrick has no official candidate statement filed with the city, but he is a regular speaker at city council meetings. He says he continues to run for office because he believes the city caters only to the interests of wealthy developers.

“We need people in office that listen and not just sell out accounts to outside special big money interests,” Hedrick said,. “We need to get our town back into local control. We have a deep city here in San Luis (Obispo), and I want to drain the marsh.”

Richard Orcutt

Richard Orcutt, a retired firefighter, is another contender in the SLO mayoral race. Orcutt did not respond to media requests from KCBX, but his candidate statement says if elected, he would prioritize downtown revitalization, addressing homelessness, ending street crime and stopping, what he calls, runaway spending.

In 2019, Orcutt faced criminal charges for allegedly sending racist hate mail to his neighbors. The case was dropped after an FBI handwriting expert found no link between Orcutt and the letters.

Jeffery Specht

Jeffery Specht is a SLO-born-and-raised entrepreneur. He said his main priority is to address what he calls “endless” increases in sales tax, parking fees and more.

In his candidate statement, Specht says city hall has a “staff infection.” Specht says he wants to reform the city charter to shift the power from “corrupt” city staff back into the hands of elected officials and SLO citizens.

“We need a strong mayor that’s going to go to the board of supervisor meetings and say, ‘enough,’” said Specht, “I’m speaking on behalf of ‘we the people’ of San Luis Obispo.”

Polls close tonightnight at 8 p.m. You can find information on the SLO mayoral and City Council candidates here.

KCBX Reporter Amanda Wernik graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a BS in Journalism. Amanda is currently a fellow with the USC Center for Health Journalism, completing a data fellowship that will result in a news feature series to air on KCBX in the winter of 2024.
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