Morro Bay: Early results show Yates in lead for mayor

With only a third of the ballots counted, the City Council and mayoral races in Morro Bay on Tuesday night were too close to call.

Based on initial results, Bill Yates was in the lead to be mayor, and Nancy Johnson and George Leage were the top vote-getters in the City Council race.

Yates was fewer than 100 votes ahead of Betty Winholtz, who has served eight years on the council.

Johnson and Leage were the top two vote-getters in a field of four candidates as of late Tuesday night, leading D’Onna Kennedy and Jack Smith.

It was unclear whether this new batch of city lawmakers will have to worry about one of the city’s most contentious issues — medical marijuana dispensaries.

In an even closer race, voting on a measure to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in the city was behind by 30 votes.

Voters put the measure on the ballot after Morro Bay made national headlines when a dispensary there was closed down and owner Charles Lynch of Arroyo Grande was prosecuted in federal court.

At public hearings, some residents told the city council that dispensaries might bring a bad element into town. Others said the dispensaries will fill a need for sick people who may want marijuana to relieve their symptoms.

Yates, a former mayor, was at odds on most issues facing the city with Winholtz, a self-employed math and reading tutor.

He would replace Janice Peters, who is retiring.

Johnson, a city planning commissioner, and restaurateur Leage would fill seats on the council currently held by Winholtz and Rick Grantham, who also ran for mayor but was eliminated in the June primary election.

The newly elected officials will have to deal with Morro Bay’s biggest problem — budget shortfalls.

The community’s tourism and commercial fishing industries are struggling, and the fate of the Morro Bay power plant, once a major source of revenue for the city, is uncertain.