Friday, August 28, 2015

Iowa City Election Shapes Up Early

For the second consecutive cycle, Iowa City avoids an October primary, and the contests for the November 3 city election are set early.

Iowa City had a primary every cycle from 1993 to 2011. Some of those were hotly contested, but most were among the lowest key and weakest turnout elections the county ever sees.  For whatever reason, Iowa Iowa City City Council Council, more than any one office, has drawn fringe or self-starter candidates. Far too often we've held a city wide election with five candidates, four advancing, and one candidate clearly far far weaker than the other four.

Of course, changing the primary process is nowhere near the top of my list for changes to the Iowa City electoral system, but what do I know, I got zero votes for the charter review commission. We'll see what happens in 2024.

In the meantime, let's look at the election we actually have.

Matt Hayek's long-announced retirement is now official as he does not file in the at large race.  Yet there are still two incumbents running for the two seats, as Jim Throgmorton switches over from the District C seat he won unopposed in 2011. The retired professor also served a short term in the early 90s.

Mid-American's Michelle Payne, a narrow winner in 2011 over Raj Patel (his unreturned absentee ballots would have made the difference), is seeking a second term. Also back on the ballot is attorney Rockne Cole, who finished fourth but a respectable fourth in the 2013 at large race.  The newcomer is Tim Conroy, a young realtor and son of Writer's Workshop legend Frank Conroy.

Both candidates in District C are first timers: retired landscape architect and member of the Iowa City Planning and Zoning Commission John Thomas faces off with Scott McDonough, owner of McDonough Structures Inc.

It's doctor vs. nurse in District A. Rick Dobyns, godfather of 21 Bar, lost a 2005 race, lost the 2007 21 Bar race, won the 21 Bar do-over in 2010, and then beat Captain Steve in the 2011 Council race. He faces off against Pauline Taylor, longtime Democratic Party activist and one of the original organizers of SEIU at University Hospitals.

In the other early filing city, the Battle of University Heights seems to have finally ended. The surrounded enclave has seen four consecutive elections - the regular 2009, 2011, and 2013 cycles and a January 2011 special - with governor-level turnout and narrow margins. One race was decided by one vote and another by two.

The battle lines were over re-development of the St. Andrew's Church property - when your city has one developable lot and no direction to grow, it's a big deal. Despite the huge turnout and clearly identifiable factions, the elections produced split decisions until 2013, when the build it bigger group swept the build it smaller group for all five seats.

Appointed incumbent Carla Aldrich is running, along with elected incumbents Mike Haverkamp, Silvia Quezada and Jim Lane (who was appointed in 2010, defeated in January 2011, and elected again in November 2011). Virginia Miller is not running, and Stephany Gahn seems to have been recruited to replace her.

The only other candidate will be on the ballot as Dorothy Dotti Maher, because state law does not allow quotation marks or parentheses on the ballot. She appears to be a self-starter. Mayor Louise From is unopposed.

In retrospect, it seems the build it smaller group gave up after 2013, because the summer 2014 appointment of Aldrich did not prompt a special election petition, the way the late 2010 appointment of Lane did.

The Heights also appears to be tired of the battle. They're the last city in the county that elects the whole council every two years, but a ballot issue would stagger the terms and make them four years.

No comments: