Headding holds slim lead in Morro Bay mayor race; Addis the top council vote-getter

Tuesday’s vote closed with 100 percent of Morro Bay precincts reported showing John Headding with a narrow margin in the race for mayor, while Dawn Addis and Jeff Heller lead for two open City Council seats.

The results, posted as of 11:09 p.m. Tuesday, tally only mail-in-ballots that were received before Monday. They do not include votes made on Election Day, and the mayor vote and a second council seat could still be too close to call.

Headding, a current city councilman, leads with 51.2 percent to John Weiss’ 48.6 to replace current Mayor Jamie Irons, who opted not to seek re-election.

Morro Bay’s races largely could be viewed as referendum on the new sewage treatment plant location.

The city is planning to build a $126 million sewage treatment and water reclamation facility near South Bay Boulevard and Highway 1.

Headding voted among the rest of the current council to plan and build a new sewage treatment and water reclamation facility near the intersection of Highway 1 and South Bay Boulevard, while Weiss is a vocal critic of that project.

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“Clearly, the most divisive issue has been the wastewater treatment plant,” Headding said. “I’ve made it clear it’s my priority to move it off the coast and build it along with a water recycling facility at a reasonable rate for residents.”

Headding said council decisions on pensions, budget constraints and harbor upgrades are all key decisions and pointed to his background as a hospital CEO to help guide the city.

In the City Council race, Addis is the top vote-getter so far at 28.9 percent, followed by Heller at 22.8, Betty Winholtz at 21.7, Jan Goldman at 17.9 and Jesse Barron at 8.4.

The final tally could change in coming days as mail-in and provisional votes are added.

John Headding, a Morro Bay City Council incumbent seeking his first election as mayor, attends a Morro Bay election night party. He was supported by advocates of the planned new sewage treatment plant location. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Sewer referendum

While the race contained divisions on how best to achieve affordable housing, spur economic growth and revamp the Embarcadero, the clearest battle lines were drawn around the sewer issue.

Morro Bay residents recently saw a $41 per month increase in their sewer and water bills (on average) to help pay for the project.

From his party Tuesday, Weiss told The Tribune by phone that Morro Bay is famous for tight races that could be decided by a very narrow margin.

“When I was walking neighborhoods on Saturday, more than half of the people I talked to hadn’t voted yet, so it’s really hard for me to tell how this will go,” he said.

Weiss said debate over the wastewater project and a battle over 1,000 rate increase protest ballots that were rejected from consideration by the council, along with vacation rentals and housing, were key issues on the campaign trail.

“My style is to try to build consensus and to try to work together,” Weiss said. “But I’m not always expecting us to agree.”

John Weiss, who is running for Morro Bay mayor, poses for a photo with his grandson Brandt, 3, during an election night party at the Harbor Hut. Weiss is a vocal critic of the planned sewage treatment site. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Council lines drawn

Addis, Barron and Goldman have expressed support for the proposed new sewage treatment plant location, while Winholtz and Heller have advocated for a project that would keep the facility closer to the coast in order to save money.

At a party hosted by a friend Tuesday, Addis said she’s “super excited and optimistic about the city’s future” and would work to represent the voice of parents of school-age children, the working class and underprivileged.

A leader of the local Women’s March movement, Addis vowed to merge her ideologies with policy if her election is confirmed.

“A lot of teens and high school students walked the streets with me and helped to get out the vote,” Addis said. “I think that’s so important because they will be voting in 2020. They will be getting to help decide this country’s future.”

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