Thursday, September 19, 2013

The OTHER city with no primary

While we wait for the 5 PM filing deadline for city council candidates in nine of Johnson County's 11 cities, let's pause and look at our OTHER city that's not having a primary, the city within a city, that infamous speed trap, University Heights.

Near as I can tell there's never been a University Heights primary. Auditor's records only go back to 1977. Before that cities ran their own elections, and no one I've ever ask ever remembers a University Heights primary. They came close in 2009: ten for the five council seats and two for mayor. One more in either would have forced the primary.

So the practical effect of the primary provision is an earlier filing deadline and an earlier start to the city's fourth consecutive contentious campaign: the 2009 and 2011 cycles and a January 2011 special.

The heat started roughly five years ago when St, Andrew Church announced plans to move out of University Heights and develop the existing church property. Nothing gets nastier than zoning fights, and  buildable lots are rare in a landlocked city.

One thing is settled: incumbent mayor Louise From is unopposed. She's got yards signs up anyway just in case, and they're not old ones since they specify the November 5 election date.

The five council members are all seeking new terms; UH is now the last city in the county where the whole council is up every two years.

Two incumbents are associated with what was called in 2011 the "U H Moving Forward" faction, which supported the  One University Place development proposal: Mike Haverkamp and Jim Lane. U H Moving Forward also backed From in 2011 (she was unopposed then too). Their yard signs are showing up alongside one of the new candidates: Zadok Nampala.

Three incumbents were part of the 2011 We Are For University Heights group: Roseanne Hopson, Brennan McGrath and Jan Leff. Rachel Stewart was the fourth WeR4UH candidate in 2011. After a recount she lost the last seat to Lane by one vote, and is running again. The four WeR4UH candidates are all listed together on one sign, the same ones used in 2011.

Two other new candidates, Virginia Miller and Silvia Quezada , are also running; their affiliations aren't yet clear.

The University Heights split is remarkable for both its intensity - turnout levels have approached governor-election levels - and its razor margin. Usually in a faction fight with two slates one side sweeps, but slight variations in personal ties have produced split results. And the factions have run less than full slates.

Only thing I'll predict: this fight continues until the church, which is also the polling place, gets torn down and something gets built there.

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