Supervisor candidates tussle in Nipomo
April 17, 2014
By JOSH FRIEDMAN
Caren Ray is warning voters about big money donors, Lynn Compton is making no bones about being Republican and Mike Byrd is facing a charge of unethical behavior for offering an opinion during a debate. Those revelations and more surfaced Wednesday evening during a fourth district supervisorial candidates forum at Nipomo High School.
Ray, an appointed incumbent from Arroyo Grande, Compton, a Nipomo businesswoman, and Byrd, an Arroyo Grande real estate broker are vying for the District 4 seat on the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors. Each of the candidates participated in the forum Wednesday put on by the San Luis Obispo County Latino Outreach Council.
Ray touted her on-the-job experience and often warned audience members that her opponents would use fear as a weapon. Compton said she believes strongly in property rights and stated that government regulations are killing businesses in the county. Byrd, a moderate Democrat, proclaimed his independence from partisan politics.
Byrd took the only firm stance on the hot-button issue: the Phillips 66 rail spur. Phillips 66 has proposed creating a railway line to bring oil by train to its Nipomo Mesa refinery.
Byrd objected to the plan because of safety issues.
“I have a hard time with the trains,” Byrd said. “I don’t think they should be allowed.”
Trains tracks in the county have histories of mishaps, and the rail spur poses an environmental threat, Byrd said.
Ray, who opted not to take a position on the rail spur, said Byrd approached the issue with a closed mind. Ray claimed that it was unethical for candidates to take a stand on issues before the board.
Generally, sitting supervisors, not candidates, do not take hard stances on subjects until they have heard both sides.
“This is unethical and unacceptable,” Ray said.
Compton said Phillips 66 offers good-paying jobs and contributes to the county tax base, but the project has serious safety concerns.
Compton did not shy away, though, from discussing her partisan ties.
“I make no bones about the fact that I’m a Republican, and I’m the only Republican running,” Compton said.
Compton said she holds Republican values of less government, taxation and regulation.
Ray, a Democrat, disputed Compton’s assertion that the supervisorial seat is a partisan position. She also stated that, as supervisor, she has crossed party lines on close votes.
“I bring balance,” Ray said.
Byrd disputed Ray’s claim that she is not a partisan Democrat. He also said that he lost interest in seeking the Democratic endorsement after receiving a questionnaire from the county central committee. The questionnaire asked candidates if they would appoint partisan Democrats to fill county positions, Byrd said.
The forum, for the most part, lacked flare. The Latino Outreach Council issued the questions to the candidates ahead of time, and several of the questions pertained to the candidates’ backgrounds and qualifications.
A large contingent of the crowd left the forum early, and at least one audience member dozed off toward the end.
The forum closed with a bang, though, when Ray, who had the last word, took a jab at Compton. Ray said money is pouring in to Compton’s campaign, particularly from North County, which is allowing her to open multiple offices and place big posters everywhere.
“Those big posters mean big money,” Ray said.
Earlier Wednesday, CalCoastNews reported that Compton had several campaign signs on private property, which appeared to violate county code due to their size. Ray, however, had dozens of illegally placed campaign signs on public property, particularly on county road right of ways and beside freeway ramps.
The primary election for the District 4 seat will take place on June 3. Any candidate who receives a majority of the vote will claim the seat. If no candidate receives a majority in June, a runoff election will occur in November.