This story will be updated as results come in.
This story was updated at 9:20 p.m. to clarify that 61.9% of registered voters had ballots counted, not 61.9% of total votes.
Incumbent Mayor Heidi Harmon is leading ahead in the San Luis Obispo mayoral race, garnering 53.9% of the votes.
Cherisse Sweeney is trailing behind with 32.3%, Sandra Marshall-Eminger with 12.2% and Donald Hedrick in last with 1.5% votes so far.
All 12 precincts in San Luis Obispo have been counted, with 65.5% of registered voters having had their ballots counted thus far. Mail-in-ballots will continue to come in to be counted.
Harmon was challenged by three other candidates: Marshall-Eminger, Hedrick and Sweeney.
Though endorsed by some major organizations and politicians – including the San Luis Obispo County Democratic Party, Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club, Congressman Salud Carbajal and Senator Bill Monning – Sweeney out-raised Harmon in campaign contributions, with $55,325 from 233 contributions compared to Harmon’s $39,293 from 150 contributions.
Sweeney’s major endorsements include the California Real Estate Political Action Committee, San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Debbie Arnold and San Luis Obispo City Firefighters.
Harmon focused her campaign on COVID-19 recovery, climate action and diversity and equity, according to Mustang News. These goals build off of work she’s done since she was first elected as mayor in 2016.
Harmon told Mustang News that if re-elected, she would aim to improve communication with residents and further publicize the work she does as mayor.
For COVID-19 recovery, Harmon has granted relief to small businesses, but said she would want to set up low-interest loans to further support business owners if reelected.
Harmon said she would also further prioritize the city’s Climate Action Plan, which lays out the goal to become carbon neutral by 2035.
When it comes to diversity and equity, Harmon told the city’s Chamber of Commerce that moving forward, she’d place a new focus on “creating a community of belonging” and “addressing our lack of diversity.”
Before becoming mayor in 2016, Harmon served as a community organizer for more than a decade, primarily advocating for climate action.
Sweeney, owner of local business Basalt Interiors, focused her campaign on public health and safety, economic vitality and inclusivity. As mayor, Sweeney plans to address the city’s homelessness issue, create private-public partnerships and strengthen the bond between Cal Poly students and the San Luis Obispo community.
Additionally, Sweeney has told the city’s Chamber of Commerce that, moving forward, City Council needs to work on informing residents with more “facts and data.”
Sweeney’s mayoral race hasn’t been free of conflicts.
In a mayoral debate hosted by Mustang News, Sweeney claimed she had positive discussions with local protest organizer Tianna Arata and other local Black Lives Matter leaders, despite her support of law enforcement.
However, both Tianna Arata and her mother took to Instagram after the debate to refute Sweeney’s comment.
“You don’t support the BIPOC community of SLO or have any credibility,” Arata’s mother said on Instagram. “There has been NO ongoing communication.”
Additionally, residents on social media have accused Sweeney of moving to San Luis Obispo in August just to run for mayor.
“I know what I signed up for and I know the nature of running for an elected seat and in campaigning and I have faith in our community,” Sweeney told Mustang News. “I know that for anyone to believe for a moment that I would run the risk of doing this and lose on a technicality, I think people will see through that.”
Though Harmon and Sweeney both emphasize the importance of the city’s local businesses, some business owners had signaled their support for Harmon due to her business-friendly leadership, on top of other characteristics.
Megan Souza, owner of Megan’s Organic Market, and Lisa Jouet, owner of jouet studio, both said Harmon’s public engagement set her apart from Sweeney and her other opponents.
From pre-pandemic policies to working on economic recovery, Jouet said Harmon has been receptive and communicative, helping residents feel heard.
Souza added that “we need someone who’s not just good for business, but good for our community as a whole.”
Jouet said that she doesn’t expect Harmon’s lead to change much as the ballot count continues.
According to a Mustang News Instagram poll, 51% of respondents in the Cal Poly community said they were registered to vote in San Luis Obispo.
“I was really hoping that the youth vote would push [Harmon] into a major lead,” Jouet said. “She’s interested in how the world will be left for that generation.”
Marshall-Eminger’s campaign focused on downtown preservation, environment and housing affordability.
A San Luis Obispo resident since 1974, Marshall-Eminger has raised her family in San Luis Obispo and said she has been actively engaged in the community. She said she helped coordinate the Earth Day Fair and was a member of the San Luis Obispo County Democratic Party Central Committee from 2003 to 2012.
Marshall-Eminger’s campaign focus of downtown preservation stems from watching the changes being made to the city for the last 46 years. She is actively involved as a member of Save Our Downtown, as she said she wants to preserve what makes San Luis Obispo unique.
While she said she doesn’t agree with the 75-foot housing development due to the non-traditional changes it makes to the downtown, she is an advocate for affordable housing in San Luis Obispo. In particular, Marshall-Eminger wants to ensure new housing developments can be backed by enough jobs to employ new residents.
Another main focus of her platform is environmental preservation.
“[Open space] is where a lot of natural life lives and it’s very important to our area,” Marshall-Eminger told Mustang News. “That’s what helped make [San Luis Obispo] so lovely.”
Hedrick is a local artisan, recycler and harbinger who is well-known for his sculpture “The Homeless Whale” in San Luis Obispo. He is an avid attendee at City Council meetings and is known for speaking during public comment.
Hedrick’s campaign prioritized localizing electricity, preserving the city and making Laguna Lake deeper.
This is Hedrick’s sixth time running for San Luis Obispo mayor.
“I will run for mayor for the rest of my life,” Hedrick said.