Voters in Morro Bay will have a chance to give the city’s unique primaries the boot this November.
On July 8, the Morro Bay City Council voted 3-2 to officially put the city’s June primary on the chopping block. Morro Bay’s summer primary was put into place in 2006 to ensure that no elected official would win with less than a majority of the vote, which can happen when three or more candidates are up for the same position. However, detractors argue that the June election costs the city more than it’s worth and creates an almost yearlong campaign season.
Tensions were high while the issue was discussed, with citizens and councilmembers holding staunchly to their stances during a debate that lasted more than an hour.
“Why don’t we get some horse sense and get with it,” Morro Bay resident Bob Keller said.
Because the rest of the county does fine with only the November election, Keller said he believes that there’s no reason Morro Bay should have to deal with the June primary.
“Who could be against having a majority decide?” asked John Barta, who spearheaded the effort to start the primary in the first place. He vehemently voiced his belief that getting rid of the primary would mean getting rid of citizens’ rights to choose the government they want.
Councilwoman Nancy Johnson, who voted not to move forward with the ballot measure, said she believed that the majority of councilmembers want to remove the primary because it would give them a better chance of being reelected.
“I feel like you’re cheating the citizens,” she said.
Councilwoman Christine Johnson, who was part of the three-person majority in favor of the ballot measure, said the city gave the primary a fair shake, but the June election is no longer a good fit for Morro Bay for myriad reasons. She added that voters should decide the issue, not the City Council.
Councilmembers debated at length over who to appoint as the author of the official pro and con arguments. After consulting with City Attorney Joseph Pannone, it was ultimately decided that Nancy Johnson and Councilman George Leage would write the con arguments, while Mayor Jamie Irons and Christine Johnson would write the arguments in favor of eliminating the primary.