Decisions … Decisions …

Published 10:23 am Wednesday, July 27, 2011

For some races choice won’t be hard at all

The next two weeks may tell the tale. Unless some want-to-be officeholders pull off an 11th hour rush to pick up and file their required petitions, just over half of the races this November will have no competition.

“There is not nearly the interest this year,” Eric Bradshaw, deputy director of the county board of election, said. “This is getting toward the last minute. The 10th is two weeks away.”

All candidates filing for office, except for the two municipal judicial races, must get their petitions into the board of election office by Aug. 10, with the requisite number of valid signatures of registered voters.

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For example, there are three seats up on Ironton City Council and as of Tuesday, only three candidates had picked up their petitions with just one office seeker — Aaron Bollinger — filing.

Four years ago when those three seats were up there were six fighting for the spots.

Four say they want to be mayor of Ironton but so far only the incumbent Rich Blankenship has filed.

Three spots are up on Ironton school board but only Mark Fields and incumbent Tim Johnson have picked up petitions. Both have filed.

Rock Hill school board has three seats open with three having picked up petitions. Four years ago seven ran for those three spots.

Twenty-one of the upcoming races have only one candidate running in contests ranging from township trustee to fiscal officer to village mayor.

“Usually nobody gets a free ride in politics,” Bradshaw said.

However, Bradshaw remembers when a seat was up on a village council that attracted no takers, except on election day. That’s when the winner was a candidate who wrote himself in.

“He only needed one vote,” Bradshaw said. “He got a few more than that. But that is all he had to do.”

On the other side of the campaign spectrum, 11 are possibly vying for four spots on the Chesapeake school board, that has for the past two years been in the spotlight as a high profile board divided on issues. Only one candidate has filed.

Six say they want to become mayor of Proctorville, taking over from incumbent Charles Stapleton, who did not run for heal reasons. Stapleton died Tuesday. Four have filed. But for most races famine, not feast, is the rule. Observers on both sides of the aisle see serving in government, no matter the level, challenging at best.

“Those are tough jobs,” County Auditor Jason Stephens said. “They are thankless jobs. I admire the people who serve in those position and have the courage to do that. If you look at Chesapeake, anytime if there is some controversy, that encourages more people to run. … The school board, they get paid maybe gas money. That is a real challenging position. It is hard to make anybody happy on the school board. And it is conceivable elected officials there did a good job and nobody is interested in challenging them. Your township trustees who get out and work and help the community are really valuable to the community.”

This past week County Treasurer Stephen Burcham picked up a petition to run for a third time for his office, which is up in 2012. For 32 years, Burcham’s father was the county’s clerk of courts and currently is on the Proctorville Village Council.

“I can remember a lot of races being contested like school board and township trustees when Dad served as a county officer,” Burcham said. “I think it is a reflection on the national discord and extremist positions that are taken by a number of commentators and media personalities.

People, unless they really feel a desire to serve, are put off by the noise at the national level. I think most people are good, honest, hard-working people. But when you are considered an outcast because of your political views by one side or the other people think, ‘I don’t have to put up with that.’”

Another factor that keeps people from running is the economic downturn affecting the state, county and municipal budgets they will have to function under when elected, some say.

“This area is starved for money,” Craig Allen, chair of the county’s Democratic party, said. “It makes it difficult to do the job of mayor or council when there is little money and a legitimate demand for services.”

Allen’s political counterpart is Ray “Moose” Dutey, chair of the county’s Republican party and a major player in the election scene for the past 62 years.

Dutey thinks the numbers will pick up closer to the filing date.

“I think you will see more,” Dutey said. “But people, I don’t know why they are not interested in their local government more. I think more people should take an interest, especially if they have kids in school.”

But Dutey also agrees with Allen that cuts in budgets are dampening the public servant zeal of many.

“The local government entities don’t have the money,” he said. “They are cutting the schools. It makes it rough when you don’t have enough money to do what has to be done.”