The polls have been closed for less than 24 hours but I wanted to offer up a few early thoughts on our local election.
Turnout was through the roof for a midterm election. In the 2014 midterm, 32% of registered voters actually cast a vote. For this midterm election, we jumped to 53% in voter turnout. Our community hasn’t seen midterm turnout that high since 2002.
Every vote matters. Only 54 votes separated Michael Whisenant and Jeff Bradford in the city mayor race. In the alderman race, 46 votes separated the fourth highest vote getter – Tonya Allen – from the fifth highest – Rachael Martinez. These are razor-thin margins that separate out who wins those seats.
Write-in campaigns are tough. Jon Law had widespread name recognition in the community and ran a pretty active ground campaign. Even with that, Law garnered only 385 write-in votes. Write-in campaigns are a tough path towards winning.
Better competition is still something we need to work towards. The three school board seats saw only three candidates, which guaranteed wins for Mark Clark, Jennifer Murdock, and Jeff Whitmore. On the alderman side of things, we knew there would be four to five open seats. With six candidates, the odds of winning an alderman seat were pretty solid.
More competitive races bring several distinct advantages:
- More choices increase political engagement among voters in the community.
- More competition keeps elected officials more accountable and responsive to citizens.
- More candidates generates more information and discussion between voters on the issues.
Over the next few weeks, you’ll hear from the newly elected officials on several big issues such as how the fifth open seat on the board will be filled, the plans our city school board has for the $8.6 million bond passed by the county commission, and how newly elected mayor Michael Whisenant plans to quickly bring the new aldermen up-to-speed on the workings of local city government. We’ll have them on the show so make sure you’re subscribed to the podcast to stay in the know.