I ran for mayor seven times and have experienced some of those non-partisan primaries. I participated because that was the system in place, but events this year have prompted me to ponder the need for such electoral anomalies.
A primary is an election before an election and in a partisan system allows a nominee for the party to be chosen. We will see a lot of those next year in the race for the White House.
The city of Watertown has its own system of non-partisan elections. Usually when you try to tell people about it, they can’t imagine a world without parties. So the primary, under the law approved for use by the city, merely thins the herd on the premise one wants a consensus winner.
Why bother? This is especially true now with earlier primaries. A local race starts in Febraury with petitions, meanders through the spring with a campaign nobody follows and stops in late June for a primary, more than four months before the final act in November.
This year, four ran for mayor. We all were ready to accept the century old notion that the persons with the most and next to most votes move to November.
Why? What is the sense in that?
In our race this year, what if Allison Crossman or Cody Horbacz had one more vote? What would that prove? Why shouldn’t everyone compete in the fall when more people vote?
In its letter refusing to certify candidates for mayor on the ballot, the Jefferson County Board of Elections asks this primary be done with. On that issue, it has a point, although the notion of one or zero candidates on the ballot is anathema to democracy.
On the matter of these primaries, it’s not the wording of the law that is in question; it’s the need for these elections. A change to the city system is needed or perhaps an abandonment of the novel concept born of the Progressive Era.
So the right solution for this year is three on the ballot. But in the future, let’s ditch these primaries the BOE doesn’t want to do anyway.
Jeffrey E. Graham