Reflecting on the SLO mayor’s race

November 11, 2018
T. Keith Gurnee

T. Keith Gurnee


When I announced my candidacy for mayor of San Luis Obispo on May 13, I thought I had a chance. As it works out, it looks like it wasn’t meant to be.

The morning after election night, I communicated with Mayor Harmon and congratulated her on her victory. Given her statement last night that she wanted to “bring the community together,” that needs to happen. Whether she can make it happen remains to be seen, but I hope she’ll try.

I thought that my previous experience on the SLO City Council and my decades of experience as a planner and urban designer would have given me a leg up. Our message was a good one: growth in character with our historic community, protecting our neighborhoods, expanding and protecting our open spaces, and getting Cal Poly to build more student housing on-campus.

We also populated our website with specific positions and solutions to the issues to keep voters informed of what I proposed to do if I were to be elected mayor. I’m still confident it was the right thing to do.

But we need to realize that the results of Nov. 6 hammered home that SLO County Supervisor Adam Hill, Mayor Heidi Harmon, and SLO County Progressive’s leader Nick Andre have become a local political machine. In addition to the mayor’s races in SLO, Morro Bay, Grover Beach, and Arroyo Grande, they appear to have carried seats on the City Councils of each of those same cities. The only thing they didn’t win was Measure G. Nonetheless, that machine has now become a force to be reckoned with, whether we like it or not.

On an “up” note, I was proud of the campaign we ran. Reconnecting with old friends and meeting so many new friends who share my love of this town was a treasure to me. We ran a well-organized, robust, and clean campaign and we kept our pledge to remain “civil” and above the fray. Our campaign was small-town neighbor-to-neighbor politics at its best.

While I was counseled by some to go negative, I refused to do so. Going negative is what paid political consultants and political machines engage in. Unfortunately, the nastiness of my opponent’s campaign proved once again that negative campaigning works. But I did not want to win that way, and I am proud that we kept our promise.

To all of those who helped walking the precincts, who worked on organizing the campaign, who did our great graphics, who put up our campaign signs, who wrote letters, who contributed financially, and who raised and managed our campaign funds, I can’t thank you enough! And to the individuals, former elected officials, community organizations, and the SLO Firefighters-Local 3523 that endorsed my candidacy, I was truly honored to receive your support.

While this was my last political race, I won’t be going away anytime soon. In running for mayor, I tried to do the right thing by our community. I tried to protect what San Luis Obispo has been, but it appears that a very different course is being charted for our future.

San Luis Obispo is on the brink of losing itself. While we shouldn’t let that happen, it will be a steep hill to climb. But climb it we must if we are to save our town.

Again, to those who supported me, a sincere and heartfelt thank you. To those who didn’t, thanks for exercising your right to vote and let’s see what the future brings. As for me, it’s onto the next chapter…

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That concession speech was a weak, rambling and feckless as your campaign. Good luck in retirement.

It’s good that Heidi won in the sense that it’s always best to see sitting politicians like Adam Hill and Heidi Harmon go down for excepting bribes. Get the popcorn out, sit back and enjoy the show. 

When do you think that is going to happen? (gets popcorn ready)