Someone enlighten me vis-a-vis partisan city elections

Recently some member of the Asheville City Council proposed changing the way we elect city council people.

Instead of how we have done it (non-partisan) they want to include parties in it (partisan).

If we were to change something I would be more in favor of districts than parties, at least that is my initial reaction.

Is there an advantage to this? Or does it just make more blind voters on party lines?

There is a movement against it, but it is being spearheaded, it seems by GOP/libertarian types. They are calling for a referendum, which seems reasonable to me.

Am I missing something?



Cuts both ways

We don't have partisan elections in Chapel Hill and it works fine. Only Democrats would win anyway.

I kind of like having the partisan crap out of the way, though it's always present as an undercurrent.

That said, if you could be sure you'd always elect Democrats, well that might be a different kettle of fish. It would be a proving ground for County and State races . . . and a way to strengthen the party organization all the way to the local level.



Looks like a power grab to me. While I love the idea of having a long-term Democratic majority on the council, I can't stand the way that the councilfolk sold the idea as increased transparency. When I asked a proponent if, since he felt that identifying a candidate's party gave the voters more information about that person, judicial elections also ought to be partisan, he stopped talking to me altogether.

This isn't really about informing all the voters about Party. It's about informing the 50% of the electorate registered Democrat who the Democrats are. Asheville is also 25% Republican and 25% Unaffiliated.

On the flip side, here's a more honest, sane assessment of the partisan move from a friend of mine in the Party:

"One other point about partisan municipal elections: The charter was changed 12 years ago based on the argument that more unaffiliated (Independent) and minority candidates would be able to win office if elections were nonpartisan. In that time no Independent candidates have even come close to winning a primary (remember the thong guy?) and only one minority -- our current Mayor. She got BIG help from us Democrats. Nonpartisan race? I don't think so."

It looks like a power grab, but maybe they're right. I can't figure it out.

Scrutiny Hooligans -

Yeah, I am trying to get my head around a

position here, and the more I read, the more confused I am.

I saw your post on Blog Asheville, and have read everything I can find from the usual places.

Damn. I just don't know what this is about.

I hope to run into Freeborn in the next couple of days, maybe that will be enlightening.

If you hear anything, drop me a line, m kay?

Why not have partisan races?

Look, if the Buncombe County GOP were putting up credible candidates for city council -- folks who seemed interested in getting things done, and doing anything besides selling off to the highest bidder all the attributes that got people to come to Asheville in the first place -- then maybe a non-partisan race would be a good idea.

The fact is, however, that we're not getting that kind of Republican on council. What we've got is the duckspeaking Mumpower, whose every word seems to come from some weird RNC handbook for partisanizing local decision-making.

What we've also got is CIBO and other moneyed interests who do want to see the best of Asheville go up for sale backing Republicans (and conservative Democrats) so they can buy it. I never got around to the general, but in the 2005 primary I looked over the candidates' financial records. Dunn and Mumpower tended to be backed by folks donating three and four figures. In fact, if you removed what you might call personal investments from the reports (donations from family and from the candidate), the average donor to the Republicans gave two and a half to three times more than the average donor to the Democratic candidates.

And the developers tend to get their money's worth. In 2001, Mumpower and Dunn got huge donations from a PAC called Citizens for New Leadership which mostly comprised developers -- especially investors in the Super Wal-Mart development. Surprise, surprise: Mumpower and Dunn (and Mayor Worley and one other conservative Democrat) voted to release the developers from a promise they made to improve the design of the site to conform with city ordinances -- saving them tens of thousands of dollars and setting up a fine precedent for negotiations with other developers.

Finally, there's the fact that our city council races have been getting more and more partisan anyway. In 2005, Carl Mumpower identified himself as "the conservative Republican" running for Asheville City Council. The Asheville Tribune runs articles every week with the clear intention of riling up Republicans against city council. And, of course, the state and county Democratic parties got involved in the 2005 race as well.

So you've got a) moneyed interests who tend to back Republicans and conservative Democrats -- and use "non-partisan" elections as a cloak for their efforts; b) a recent crop of progressive Democratic candidates who are highly likely to win in both partisan and non-partisan primaries -- meaning that the big money and its influence will tilt even more to the GOP; c) the parties and their proxies already involving themselves in elections and debates. Even if it is just the progressive majority working to make themselves safer in office, there are enough other reasons to back partisan elections that I'm not sure why people are so worked up.

And if it is the progressives making themselves safer, so what? This council has done a lot of important work for economic fairness, sane economic development, the environment, and good government. Again, if the local GOP had that kind of track record I might not mind it if they got to appear on the ballot without an (R) hanging from their names like an anvil. But they don't. And so it's their own fault if partisan identification -- certified by a partisan primary -- torpedoes their campaigns.

Finally (and I realize this is a long post) about the judicial election question. I would have no problem with judicial elections becoming partisan. They already are, to nearly the same extent as our city council elections. The parties endorse their candidates, they recruit candidates to run, they try to educate their base on who to vote for.

And the non-partisan election makes it hard for voters to know who to support. Having manned the polls through three general elections, I can tell you that I have gotten more questions about who were the Democratic candidates in the judicial races than about anything else. And as a good precinct chair, I tell the folks: vote for this one, this one, and this one. And then they thank me profusely. And given that the the Republican majority on the 2005 Supreme Court tried to throw out tens of thousands of provisional ballots, I feel just fine about that.

But the judicial races are non-partisan because that was the deal that was struck when we went to public financing for judicial campaigns. Maybe the Buncombe GOP could offer that as a compromise for partisan city council elections -- let's keep them non-partisan, but finance them publicly. Maybe they'll do that. Yeah . . .

Are you kidding me?

And the non-partisan election makes it hard for voters to know who to support.

"Hard to know who to support?" Give me a break. If anything, a non-partisan election forces the voter to learn something more about a candidate than their party affiliation. Supporting people soley along party lines is exactly why there are so many knucklehads in Raleigh and Washington.

I personally believe the straight ticket option should be removed from all ballots for the same reason.

Municipal elections, by law, are held on odd numbered years. Without the draw of larger races, the turnout is typically much lower. Those actually voting in municipal; elections are typically there for the express purpose of voting for those races (compared to something like judges, etc. which are afterthoughts for most people on the national race ballots). In general, making elections partisan would do nothing than draw more money and "politics" into a municipal election and encourage voting for a party instead of a candidate. The platforms of the national parties have very little relevance to most of what a city does anyway- zoning, water, sewer, and public safety.

No, I do not live in Asheville, but I must say that from what I know of her Robin Cape seems pretty cool.

Straight Ticket Voting

has always seemed lazy to me. Even though I almost always wind up voting for all of the Democrats who are running, more often than not, it's because I like what they've said or written.

That said - I'd like to see our county commission go to non-partisan, by district elections.

I agree on the County

The County should be non-partisan. The interesting thing; as far as I can find, although there is no requirement that county commissioner races be partisan, they are in all 100 counties.

Just as with municipalities, most of what a county commission does has almost nothing to do with the platforms and policies of the parties. Making them partisan just makes things more "political."

Straight Ticket Voting

has always seemed lazy to me. Even though I almost always wind up voting for all of the Democrats who are running, more often than not, it's because I like what they've said or written.

That's why I'd like to see our county commission go to non-partisan, by district elections.

Thank you all. It seems to me now

that this is simply a smokescreen for the GOP to continue its evil ways then.

I wondered what the angle of the libertarians/GOPlites was in fighting this, now I see it.

You would think they would not want to have an (R) hanging off their names with BushCo's record, but never underestimate the arrogance of these pricks, I guess.

You Wouldn't Say This if You Lived in Johnston

...most of what a county commission does has almost nothing to do with the platforms and policies of the parties. Making them partisan just makes things more "political."

It's all about the *****

... about the ...

"They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

I'm still hung up


Thanks for laying out the argument here. It's the first time I've seen it put that way.


Because the folks proposing it ramrodded the thing through without doing much explaining. Saying that it informs the voters more is a really weak explanation. So would public-funded elections where everyone got equal space and time.

I'm a Democrat, so it's easy to see that this serves my best interests so far as city governance goes. But the underlying principle is more difficult. Why not put the idea to a referendum, so the motivations won't be an issue?

I signed the petition to put it on the ballot. In large part because I'm confused about what we really need to do. The time b/w now and Nov. ought to give both sides time to flesh out their arguments instead of rushing into what looks like a power grab.

Scrutiny Hooligans -

Screwy... I signed it too, even though

I think it is a good idea, but it was presented and done wrong.

Changes like this should not be done by fiat, from any side.

Doing it this way has laid them open to apparently valid criticism from the RW nuts. Trust me, they will be all over this if it stands.

Ok, but I still don't understand . . .

the status quo before a Republican council changed the charter was partisan elections. There was no referendum on that change in the charter. So why do we need a referendum to change it back? Especially when the declared purpose of making the first change -- to allow unaffiliated and minority candidates to get elected -- doesn't seem to have been achieved? And why is it that any time a bunch of RW nuts get mad we worry about their reaction?

When I look at the things that previous council majorities have done -- tentatively approved high-rises that would spoil downtown Asheville, granted sweetheart deals to developers, prevented the city from policing the quality of housing, put a major highway through the heart of the city, etc., etc., ad infinitum et ad nauseam -- I really don't understand why a relatively minor change in the way we run elections should generate this much heat. And I don't understand why any liberal would allude to the reaction on the right as evidence of a problem in the process or the substance of a policy. On pretty much every other issue this council has tackled, I've regarded that reaction as evidence that they did the right thing.

And, guys, we have no right to look down on those who rely on party affiliation to guide their choices. People have jobs, lives, children, sick spouses and parents, and their own priorities to attend to. I'd rather see those of us who care fight to make it mean something to have a (D) next to your name instead of fight to take that (D) off the ballot. And if we want "Democrat" to mean something, it's better to have partisan primaries.

My two cents

is from the viewpoint of a voter who hasn't always done his homework, just like some (most?) others.

When I've encountered sections of the ballot that were non-partisan, some of the names I'm familiar with, and some I don't have a clue. I often find myself choosing female names that sound progressive :) , and that (of course) is merely foolish.

Of course voters should do some research before they go into the booth, but, in the absence of such, they need some kind of hint as to the candidates basic political philosophy.