Behind the Scenes: Harmon v. Marx Mayoral Race

Why the Mayoral Race?

With elections coming up in just under a month, our group thought it was important to highlight the race for the next San Luis Obispo Mayor.  While most students are debating over whether Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump would be a worse President, very few students recognize the names Heidi Harmon and Jan Marx – the two women running for SLO Mayor.  Katie brought this idea to the groups attention and we all jumped onboard.  The story is so relevant, not only because it is election season, but also because Cal Poly is at a time of growth and change and the next San Luis Obispo mayor will have a lot of say in what the University can and can’t do.

As we started talking about our story angles on the day of assignment, we quickly realized our hypocrisy when criticizing our fellow peers for not being more aware of their local government representatives.  We ourselves were also not too familiar with who Heidi Harmon and Jan Marx really were.  So task number one for our group was to research the candidates so we were educated on the topic when talking to our sources.

Time with Heidi Harmon

Our biggest fear when choosing this story was that it would be too difficult to get a hold of both Heidi Harmon and Jan Marx in a timely manner.  Our worries were put at ease when Heidi’s campaign manager emailed me back within 24 hours of our email inquiring an interview.  The only mishap we ran into was that another student (Bryce) had also requested time with Heidi.  Because of the overlap, we decided to collaborate and conduct our interviews at the same time.  We set the interview for Friday (10/7) and communicated with Bryce to insure we would all be on the same page regarding the type of questions we wanted to ask.

On Friday we met at Bella Mundo, a cafe located downtown.  While the cafe was a little loud, we were able to find a quiet corner with perfect, natural light from the window for our video.  The interview went off seamless and Heidi seemed to be very enthusiastic about bringing a new insight into the SLO government to achieve solutions to prevalent issues in our community.

Dani (pictured on the right) interviews Heidi Harmon on issues involving Cal Poly vs. the San Luis Obispo community as Bryce (pictured on the left) takes notes on her responses.

Tracking down Jan

While Heidi’s team was quick to reply to our interview inquiry, getting a hold of Jan was a more difficult scenario.  After a couple unreturned emails and phone calls, we finally found success from our new friend Bryce, from the Public Policy reporting class.  When we realized that our deadline was fastly approaching and we still had no word from Jan, we reached out to Bryce to see if she had any luck reaching Jan.  She replied informing us that she was doing an interview with Jan the next day and we quickly invited ourselves to tag along to get video and ask our questions.

The interview was held outside the UU by the Mustang statue.  While it was a nice place for visuals, the area was less than ideal for sound – it was extremely loud due to how close it was to the street and foot traffic.


After watching the interview back on tape and realizing that the loud traffic took away from what Jan was saying, we decided to schedule a second interview.



In the end, this story made me realize how important it is to vote for your local government.  Cal Poly is in a period of change as the University wants to increase its student population and the next Mayor will have a lot of say on the how much they can grow.  It’s extremely easy to switch your to registration to be able to vote in SLO and voice your opinion in the upcoming Mayoral elections.

“Reaching out to the public about what they wanted to hear in the story really made me realize how different our perception as reporters about what we assume our readers want to see and what they actually say they want to see.  I loved working on this story and being able to talk to both Jan and Heidi to get their opinions on issues that are affecting Cal Poly students everyday.” -Maddie Reid

“Covering the Mayoral Race in SLO was fun and exciting. I’ve never been involved politically before, as this is my first eligible election. Thanks to this project, I have switched my registration to SLO county and will be voting in a few weeks. I will encourage my classmates and friends to vote in San Luis and will pay attention to what’s going on in our community from now on. I’m very happy our team covered this story successfully and can’t wait to see who becomes Mayor!” -Dani 

I learned a lot about the Mayoral Race and each of the candidates who are running. Even though I think they have similar stances on Cal Poly issues, they are very different candidates overall. While Jan Marx is more experienced and entrenched in the community, Heidi Harmon is very charismatic and has run a great grassroots campaign which made me think about whether we need new blood in the office. Ultimately though, I think Jan Marx is the more qualified candidate.” -Katie Stark

“I learned a lot about time management and being able to get things done on a tight deadline. I successfully completed an article and five interviews in less than two weeks, on top of work and my other school assignments. I also learned a lot about what a large role the mayor plays when it comes to decisions at Cal Poly and around SLO.” -Caitlin Clausen