Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hopson Wins in UHeights

Hopson Wins in University Heights

A seat flips in University Heights as Rosanne Hopson defeats appointed city council member Jim Lane in tonight's special election, 262 to 233 (53% to 47%).

The election in this odd enclave surrounded on all sides by Iowa City (apparently an annexation war was fought in the late 1950s and early 60s) saw high absentee voting: 248 ballots counted, one more than the election day vote. It's the third time a Johnson County election has seen more early voters than election day voters (the others were a 2003 Iowa City school bond and the 2008 presidential election).

Interestingly, Hopson won the absentees with 58%, while Lane carried the election day vote with 53%.

The combined turnout of 495 voters sets a University Heights city election record, topping the 414 votes in the hard-fought 2009 election. But it falls short of the 570 voters U. Heights saw in the general election last fall, and the 56% turnout falls short of the 70% local special election turnout record, set in a 1999 Swisher water utility vote.

The election was fought almost entirely over redevelopment of the St. Andrew Church property (ironically, the church has long served as the city's polling place). Last month, the council voted 4 to 1 to approve a site plan for the project, though the church has not yet sold the property.

Lane, appointed to fill a council vacancy last summer, was part of that 4 to 1 council majority. Hopson and other project opponents petitioned for the special election.

Hopson's win ends a long streak in Johnson County, dating back to at least 1994. Until tonight, every special election required by petition saw the original appointee win and the challenger lose. That pattern has held whether the petition came from the left (Pat Gilroy vs. Don Sehr, 1994) or right (Lori Cardella vs. Janelle Rettig, 2009-10; Steve Lacina vs. Deb Conger in 1997) of the local spectrum.

University Heights council members serve two year terms, so all five members including Hopson will be up for re-election this fall.

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