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The importance of contested elections

By Scott Tibbs, April 4, 2011

The primary elections for control of city government are looming, and the Republican Party is missing in action. On the Democratic side, there are contested primaries in the first, third, fifth and sixth city council districts, and a contested primary for mayor. Republicans managed to find a candidate for the first district and two at-large candidates. The spots on the ballot for the other five district seats, the mayor and city clerk are vacant.

The good news is that the Republicans are planning to hold a caucus after the primary to fill some vacant spots for city council. Unfortunately, no one has yet expressed interest in running for mayor. Hopefully the GOP will do better than in 2007, when they contested only 3 of 6 districts and fielded 1 at-large candidate.

But more important than the city council races is the race for chief executive. Someone needs to run for mayor. It is not healthy for Bloomington to have the most powerful position in city government be uncontested in the November election. Even if the eventual Democratic nominee is opposed by a write-in candidate with absolutely no chance of winning, it is critical that there be some choice for the voters.

It is true that the last eight years have not been good for Republicans in Bloomington and Monroe County. There are a number of reasons for that, but there is simply no excuse to not even attempt to give the voters a choice in November. I do not buy the argument that it is impossible for a Republican to win elections for city government. Republicans won the 5th district (though not by much) three elections in a row and have held the 2nd district for some time now. The 6th and 4th districts are winnable if Republicans can somehow manage to mobilize students. There's no reason Republicans can't pick up one of the three at-large seats.

There was a significant oversight in the article on Sunday, with the statement that "the two political parties can hold a caucus after the primary." There are actually three parties with ballot access in Bloomington. The third is the Libertarian Party. The Libertarians have not placed a candidate on the ballot in a city election since 1999, though.