The partisan bickering at the national level has become so polarizing that it is hard to avoid a strictly partisan viewpoint in local elections. But, party membership may not be the best way to decide on candidates in our upcoming county primaries May 24, 2016.
With early voting starting May 2, local candidates are busy putting up their signs, canvassing neighborhoods and making the rounds to various events. It is time for voters to make their decision because the primaries will determine the winner of many local races. Each voter will have to choose a Democrat or Republican ballot. If you choose a Republican ballot, there will be only Republican candidates listed and only Democratic candidates will be on that party’s ballot.
In local elections, party affiliation appears to be less important than in state or national elections. That is particularly true of our county commission where party membership cannot be determined by the way votes are cast. Republican members, who are supposed to be more conservative spenders, do not always fulfill that expectation as evidenced by their past support of our former county attorney and his outrageous legal bills. Commission Democrats share the blame for overspending county revenue, but two of them also pushed hard for cost saving improvements in county operations.
In recent months, much progress has been made because of bi-partisan cooperation among some of our current commissioners. Now, we must elect reliable and competent persons to avoid sliding back into politics as usual. Three District Commission seats and the Chairman’s position are up for election. In District 1 and 5 (east, south and northeast Newton), there are no Democratic candidates for the vacant seats so voters must select a Republican ballot to have a voice in who their District Commissioner will be. A Republican ballot will also allow a vote for Commission Chairman, with the party candidates being current District 5 Commissioner Levie Maddox or past Chairman Aaron Varner.
District 3 (west and northwest Newton) has the reverse problem. There are only Democratic candidates for this important commission seat. Voters who select a Republican ballot will not be able to vote for their District Commissioner whose decisions often impact their everyday lives and their wallets. The choices on the Democratic ballot will be incumbent Nancy Schulz or challengers Tim Brown or Susette Monk. For Chairman, Democratic voters countywide will choose between Marcello Banes, Phillip Johnson or Michael Syphoe.
Regardless of which party ballot is chosen in the upcoming primaries, voters will still have the opportunity to select their candidate of choice for Chairman during the general election in November. The winner of the Democratic and Republican primaries will face off then.
Many people favor non-partisan local elections but we do not have that option in May. That means it is critically important to vote for the candidates who will best serve our county regardless of party affiliation.