Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Two Independents File For Supervisor

The Johnson County Republicans' oh-fer-half a century streak on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors will continue, but there is competition for the three seats. Two independent candidates filed before today's 5 PM deadline.

David Fesler of Coralville is a registered Democrat, but is married to prominent local GOP activist Karen Fesler. The other independent, John Etheredge of rural Kalona, is a registered Republican. The two independents will join three Democratic incumbents on the November ballot. Pat Harney, Terrence Neuzil, and Rod Sullivan were re-nominated without opposition in the June primary.

At the risk of repeating myself: Even in a county not as one-sided as Johnson, independent candidates start off with a disadvantage on straight ticket votes, since they receive none at all. Check these Johnson County numbers for straight tickets in 2008:
Total voters 73,231
Dem straight tickets 14,366
GOP straight tickets 5,351
So running as a Republican in Johnson County, you'd start 9000 votes behind the Democrats just on straight tickets. But as an independent, you give up even those 5000 straight ticket Republican votes, and start out 14,000 in the hole. True, Don Sehr was elected as an independent in 1994, but that was a special election, he was holding the seat already by appointment, and there was a nasty Democratic party split.

As for the Johnson County GOP, they last won a supervisor race in 1958. (There was a Republican sheriff for four terms in the 70s and 80s,) But their local focus looks to be on the two open-seat legislative races in House 73 and 77.

In the other courthouse races, Democratic Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek has a race on his hands with the justice center issue, but as for his own job he wins a third term without primary or general election opposition. Pulkrabek was also unopposed in 2008, but won hotly contested primary and general election races when the job was open in 2004.

In the auditor's race, Democrat Travis Weipert of Tiffin will take office in January with no general election opposition. Weipert defeated incumbent Tom Slockett in the primary.

Weipert had been on the Tiffin city council, and his early resignation opened up one of two seats in Tiffin that will be on the ballot for one year terms. The first seat opened up when Chris Ball resigned to take a city administration job out of town; Weipert then resigned so the contests could be combined. Six candidates filed in Tiffin, including former mayor Royce Phillips; Joan Kahler has been on the council in the past. The other four, all first time candidates: Jenny Carhoff, Allen Moore, Nelson Olivier, and Joshua Oswald.

In Hills, appointed council member Bruce Endris is the only candidate for a one year term. Endris was appointed in January to replace Tim Kemp, who had been elected mayor in the middle of a council term. (I should note that write-ins can happen. Almost certainly not successfully on a county-wide level in a presidential year, but maybe in a smaller race like this. Not that I have a reason to think that's happening in Hills.)

But the real battle in Hills will be over establishing a water utility. Hills voted down a water utility two to one in the 2007 city election. One problem here: vague ballot language.  "Shall the City of Hills, in Johnson County, Iowa, be authorized to establish a municipal water utility?" No dollar amount, no funding mechanism. Just: Water - yes or no? Swisher offered a similarly loose wording on a water issue in a 1999 special. The result: presidential level turnout for a municipal referendum, and a 72% No.

Also noted, at the state level: The ballot challenges to Libertarian Gary Johnson and Some Dude Jerry Litzel were denied so both will be on the presidential ballot.

And if you're really, really curious: all the incumbents for the ag extension board and the soil and water commission are running unopposed for re-election.

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