Jamie Irons wins race for Morro Bay mayor over Bill Yates

newsroom@thetribunenews.comJune 5, 2012 

UPDATE 4:16 p.m. Wednesday: After what he described as “numerous questions from the media and the public” about Morro Bay’s uncommon municipal primary system, the city attorney has clarified that based on unofficial returns from Tuesday’s election, City Councilman Noah Smuckler was re-elected, and Christine Johnson will succeed City Councilwoman Carla Borchard.

Borchard placed second in her challenge to Mayor Bill Yates, who placed third in the election. Challenger Jamie Irons won the mayor’s seat, taking almost 53 percent of the vote.

Borchard’s four-year term on the council ends in December.

Morro Bay City Attorney Rob Schultz clarified in a news release this afternoon that there would be no runoff election for the council seats in November because 63.3 percent of voters in Tuesday’s election cast votes in Smukler’s favor, and Johnson was picked by 54.1 percent of voters.

Under electoral reforms that Morro Bay voters approved under Measure S in November 2006, the municipal election was moved to June.

To win, candidates for both mayor and council must “receive a majority vote in the primary election,” according to the Morro Bay Municipal Code. Otherwise, a runoff is set for November.

Schultz noted that in his office’s ballot summary of Measure S and subsequent city staff reports, the law is interpreted to mean that “a candidate is elected … if he or she receives votes on a majority of the ballots cast.”

In most city elections in California, city council or mayoral candidates are typically elected if they are top vote-getters, even if they do not receive votes on a majority of ballots.

Shultz wrote that in each election since the passage of Measure S, “the city has interpreted the majority of votes based upon ballots cast,” not the number of votes cast, noting that each voter can cast votes for up to two candidates running for the council. There were four candidates for council in Tuesday’s race.

“It is the number of ballots, not the number of choices exercised on each ballot, which determines the majority,” Schultz wrote in the press release. So two candidates must receive a vote on a majority of ballots cast to win, he added.

Original story: Jamie Irons handily beat incumbent Bill Yates in the race for Morro Bay mayor at the polls Tuesday, and four candidates were headed to a November runoff in the race for two City Council seats.

City Councilwoman Carla Borchard placed second in the mayoral race, with incumbent Yates at a close third. Following in fourth was Joe Yukich.

For the two open spots on the City Council, incumbent Noah Smukler was headed to the Nov. 6 runoff to face Christine Johnson, Joan Solu and James R. Hayes.

Morro Bay is the only city in the county to hold a primary election for its local elected offices. All other cities go straight to the fall general election to pick mayor and council members.

Morro Bay’s elected officials face a range of challenges.

These include a struggling fishing industry, closure of the Morro Bay power plant, balancing the needs of residents and the tourist industry, and rebuilding the city’s wastewater treatment plant. At a cost of at least $34 million, the treatment plant overhaul will be the most expensive infrastructure project in the city’s history.


Morro Bay mayor, 100 percent of precincts reporting

Jamie Iron, 52.97 percent

Carla Borchard, 21.15 percent

Bill Yates, 20.41 percent

Joe Yukich, 5.29 percent

Two Morro Bay city council seats, 100 percent of precincts reporting

Noah Smukler, 37.12 percent

Christine Johnson, 31.71 percent

Joan Solu, 17.43 percent

James R. Hayes, 13.53 percent

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