Mayor-elect Heidi Harmon gave a victory speech and fielded questions in front of city hall on Nov. 28 to address her surprise victory in the San Luis Obispo mayoral election. Harmon was declared the winner of the race against six-year mayoral incumbent Jan Marx on Nov. 23.
Marx held a five percent lead over Harmon on the night of the election on Nov. 8. Ultimately, Harmon’s victory came by a slim 47 vote difference with a total of 10,500 votes compared to Marx’s 10,453.
During her press conference, Harmon called the victory a surprise turnaround to a defeat she came to accept.
“It was definitely a surprise,” Harmon said. “We did not expect it. I would have loved to have won but wasn’t destroyed by the thought of not winning. Then the second I won I thought, ‘This is great!’”
Harmon said she hopes her surprise win with a campaign that emphasized a grassroots approach inspires other members of the public from outside the traditional political establishment to consider running for office.
“I came from a more activist background and I would love to see more folks have that origin story, moving from the outside to the inside political space,” she said.
During her speech to the press, Harmon, flanked by representatives of the Northern Chumash, nurses’ and firefighters’ unions, stressed the importance of appreciating the past.
“In order to move forward into the future it’s essential that we recognize where we come from and the past,” Harmon said. “Here in this land and this space that starts with the Chumash peoples and it goes all the way up from so much great leadership to Mayor Marx who I’d like to thank for 20 years (of service) here at the city.”
This race was close enough that every vote really did count and Harmon said she was happy to have run in a race where such value was placed on each voter.
“I’ve probably talked to about a thousand people who are certain that they are a part of that 47 and they’re right,” she said. “I love that we won by such a small margin because it just goes to show, that what we’re trying to say is that every vote matters. Showing up matters.”
Harmon then spoke on the dividing lines that exist for members of the San Luis Obispo community who, while all sharing the same space, are often at odds with each other.
“San Luis Obispo really is at a crossroads. We’re sort of victims of our own success,” she said. “We have students, businesses, tourists, retirees and young families all wanting to be in this magical place. It’s a great problem to have but it’s a challenge nevertheless.”
Harmon plans to lead San Luis Obispo with a mind to bridge the divides.
“We need to have smart solutions and forward-thinking people and inclusive leadership to find those solutions to the deep desire that people have to live here,” Harmon said. “How can we have a more inclusive city while still maintaining the sense of character and charm that makes San Luis Obispo so special?”
Watch the whole press conference below.