Our View: A call for candidates
March 24, 2010
It's not always easy to round up participants for a participatory democracy, particularly in rural areas.
Elections in Routt County are scheduled for April and November, and the slate of candidates is on the slim side. In Oak Creek, only five candidates are running for four Town Board seats in the April 6 vote. One candidate is running for mayor. Countywide, Rob Ryg will face Democratic challenger Darrel Levingston in the county coroner race, and Sheriff Gary Wall is likely to face one of three Republican candidates.
But most county races lack competition.
Diane Mitsch-Bush is running unopposed for county commissioner in the district including Steamboat Springs, and no one has signed up to challenge Kay Weinland for county clerk and recorder or Jeanne Whiddon for treasurer. Gary Peterson, who was named interim county assessor Tuesday, is the only person who has filed to run for the position in November. No one has filed to run for county surveyor. Additionally, state Rep. Randy Baumgardner is running unopposed for his seat in House District 57.
That's an awful lot of uncontested races, and uncontested races mean zero choice and little debate. We encourage those with the relevant skills and desire to serve the public to research the positions and consider throwing his or her name in the hat.
That opinion is by no means a critique of those incumbents who are seeking re-election but rather a reminder that democracies always are best served when voters are not only given choices, but also substantive discussion about the relevant issues.
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The candidates who are running will make their ideas and platforms known, no doubt, and we welcome that. But they won't have opponents to raise other ideas and to challenge theirs.
The decision to run for elected office shouldn't be made lightly. Many positions are time-consuming and difficult, and it's intimidating to put oneself under the public microscope.
But they also offer candidates the opportunity to serve their neighbors, influence public policy and improve the community.
Elected positions also can provide steady employment and decent compensation and benefits, so we're a little surprised that few are taking advantage of that during a recession.
Weinland, the clerk and recorder, said the lack of contested races was typical.
"It's pretty normal, especially at the local level," she said. Weinland is running for her fifth four-year term in the office.
It's not too late for would-be candidates to sign up. Weinland said those interested in running should call the Clerk and Recorder's Office at 870-5556 to find out what they need to do. There are several paths to the ballot. Some, such as Peterson's run as an unaffiliated candidate, require gathering petition signatures.
The final deadline for a candidate to enter a race is 60 days before the Nov. 2 election, Weinland said. That is the cutoff for write-in candidates.
For those representing a political party, county assemblies are April 10. Local delegates will be selected for state conventions, and those assemblies include straw polls for contested races. Nick Bosick, David Smith Jr. and Garrett Wiggins are likely to vie for the Republican nomination. Candidates who get enough votes at the assembly will appear on the Aug. 10 primary ballot.
Political office certainly isn't for everyone. At the very least, make sure you update your voter registration and make your voice heard at the polls.
After all, participation is what participatory democracy is all about.