A bill recently introduced in the state Legislature could turn local elections partisan.
Introduced by Rep. Jay Lawrence (R–District 23), House Bill 2032 would require cities and towns to print candidates’ party designations on ballots for mayor and city council elections.
Local leaders expressed opposition to the proposal, arguing city policies are nonpartisan in nature.
“I understand that we all tend do lean one way or the other,” said Mayor Christian Price. “But at the local level, the beauty of the pothole in the middle of the street is that it is not Republican or Democrat; it’s just a pothole that needs to get fixed, and that’s the joy of doing my job at a local level and working for the people.”
It’s not the first time a bill for partisan city elections has been proposed by the Legislature. Price said, if passed this time, the bill would give undue power to the party system.
“I encourage the voter to figure out who they’re electing and why, and not just [look] at an ‘R’ or a ‘D.’ While that’s helpful, it’s not always as helpful as they’d like to think it is,” Price said.
Councilwoman Julia Gusse, a registered independent, agreed, pointing out candidates do not always vote along the lines of their registered parties.
“Democrats and Republicans are not monolithic; not all Democrats are pro-choice, just like not all Republicans are fiscally conservative,” Gusse said.
Gusse said an informed voter in a non-partisan election will know the party where a candidate most likely aligns. Gusse said she fears partisan elections could also influence candidates to rely solely on a party designation to win office.
“I want individuals to earn their seats and I want to be elected because people voted for me, not the letter next to my name on that ballot,” Gusse said.
Councilmember Vincent Manfredi said the bill serves no practical service to residents.
“As a councilmember, you work for your community, so your community is going to know you anyway,” Manfredi said. “Regardless whether you have an ‘R’ or ‘D’ next to your name they’re going to vote for people they feel are going to provide the most value for your community.”