Thursday, August 29, 2013

No Iowa City Primary

For the first time since 1991, Iowa City will not have a city primary.

As expected, just four candidates filed for the two at large seats, and two candidates for the District B race, through today's 5 PM filing deadline. One more in either would have meant an October 8 primary. Instead the candidates go directly to the ballot for the November 5 election.

University Heights, the other Johnson County city with a primary provision, has also avoided a primary. They haven't seen one since at least 1977 and some sources believe it's never happened.

All six Iowa City candidates, interestingly, are registered Democrats. As we all know from Johnson County politics, some Democrats are more Democrats than others, but official registration is just an Objective Fact.

The at large candidates:
  • Kingsley Botchway, 27, west side. Attorney by training, county employee by profession, and Prime Time Leauger by recreation.
  • Catherine Champion, 47, Longfellow area. Downtown retailer and daughter of current District B incumbent Connie Champion who is not running.
  • Rockne Cole, 38, near east side. Attorney; identified with the "stop the shadow" coalition opposing Marc Moen's latest high-rise proposal.
  • Susan Mims, 56, far north side. Incumbent finishing first term. Financial planner by employment, long list of chamber of commercy community servicey organizationy stuff.
In District B, can you imagine a bigger contrast between:
  • Terry Dickens, 58, far north side. Incumbent in at large seat switching to the District B race. (The whole city votes on the district race; I explain the now-moot complexities of the district and primary system here.) Owner of Herteen and Stocker jewelers, where he's been the front line man on the effort to crack down on homelessness on the Ped Mall.
  • Royceann Porter, 47, southeast side. Case manager at Shelter House and community civil rights activist.
case manager at Shelter House
case manager at Shelter House
case manager at Shelter House
case manager at Shelter House
It's the first re-election and in some ways the first real election for Dickens and Mims. They got a de facto walkover in record low turnout 2009 over student candidates Dan Tallon and Jeff Shipley (both of whom have since left town and both of whom I voted for).

This race should be nearly as polarized but more competitive, and with much higher turnout. That little 21 Bar question, technically over the post-10 PM bar admission age but also sort of a Whose City Is This Anyway town-gown Rorschach test, is making its third appearance. Why don't they ever get the student candidates and the bar issue on the ballot in the same year? Three or even four students might have won in 2007 when the 19 side won the bar war 57-43%. It was closer, with 21 winning just 52-48, in the rematch during the 2010 general election.

The council race has a clear insider vs. outsider dimension between incumbents Dickens and Mims and pseudo-incumbent Champion the Younger, vs. outsiders Botchway, Cole and Porter. Also noteworthy, given the racial arrest disparity debate that helped defeat the county justice center twice: Botchway and Porter are both black. That wouldn't be a first; Ross Wilburn served 12 years including two as mayor, and George Strait won two terms in the 80s. But Botchway at 28 (on swearing-in) would be the youngest member since David Perret, the last student elected to the council in 1979.

The lack of a primary affects fund faising. Iowa City has a donation limit: $100 per person per election. Per election, which means one $100 check for a primary and one for November. No primary means only one $100 max donation.

So a primary with a weak fifth wheel might have actually helped a candidate who could raise money, since there's no rule that you have to spend it all on the election you supposedly raised it for; you can keep it banked for later. That's what happened in 2009, when a third student candidate forced a low-turnout primary, thus allowing the heavily favored townie candidates to double-dip their donors. Dickens started calendar 2013 with $8133 left over from 2009, while Mims had $1550.

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