SOUTH SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY, Calif. - Voters in South San Luis Obispo County will face a key decision when they cast their vote on Election Day.
Up for grabs is a seat on the Board of Supervisors in District Four. It's a tough battle between incumbent Lynn Compton and challenger Jimmy Paulding. The seat represents Arroyo Grande, Nipomo, Oceano, parts of Edna Valley, and a large portion of rural eastern San Luis Obispo county along Highway 166.
Three-and-a-half years after voting Compton into office, voters will now decide to stay the course or to bring change.
"We feel like we're on a good path and I don't want to change that path forward for South County," Compton said Monday while taking a short break as she prepared for Tuesday's Board meeting. "I feel like I represent the voters of South County in a manner that my opponent cannot."
"I'm running because we deserve better," Paulding said Monday while canvassing Nipomo neighborhoods. "We need somebody on our Board of Supervisors that wants to serve everybody in the community and is focused on the issues."
The issues for the seat are varied, including affordable housing, roads and infrastructure, mental health reform, air quality and much much.
Compton and Paulding differ on most issues, particularly on how they would govern.
"I think it's a pretty stark difference between the two candidates," said Compton. One, big government is a solution, the other is not, protecting small businesses, etc."
"I bring an experience and skill-set that we need to focus on planning issues and really our communities already better than they already are," Paulding said, referring to his background as a planner and project manager. "I've always been somebody that listens to both sides, and I think that's what we need on the Board, somebody with an open mind that will listen and make important decisions."
The District Four race is seen as a crucial election that could impact the county for years to come. Traditionally, it's viewed as the "swing vote." Currently, the Board includes a conservative majority, with Compton frequently falling in line with District One Supervisor John Peschong and District Five Supervisor Debbie Arnold.
"It could potentially flip the power of the board, from a 3-2 majority right now," said Compton, a registered Republican. "If my opponent wins, it will just go 3-2 the other way and I have no doubt he will vote lock-step with Bruce (Gibson) and Adam (Hill) on things."
Despite being a registered Democrat, Paulding emphasizes that if he is elected, he will vote independently and will not beholden to party lines.
"Right now our Board of Supervisors is the most divided and toxic that it's ever been, at least in recent memory," said Paulding. "I want to unify people. I want to bring people together. I want to focus on issues, instead of party agendas."
With the balance of the Board of Supervisors potentially at stake, it's not surprising a lot of money has poured into the race, with contributions coming from all over the county.
Each candidate has raised more than $200,000, with a lot of the money being spent on numerous campaign mailers, some of which have been highly negative.
Still, both Compton and Paulding say they are proud of how they have campaigned during what has been a long, grueling, and at times, contentious race.
"Any claim or accusation or comment that we've mad, we always source it," said Compton. "We don't make things up, so I feel good about the race we've run. I feel like we've run a very clean race."
"Early on, people said there's just no way you could ever win this race, so you shouldn't even do it and of course that motivated me even more, so I've accepted the challenge and I think it's going to be a close race."
The race for District Four supervisor will be decided on Election Day, June 5, and will not proceed to the November election.
Polls open on Tuesday at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.