2009-08-13 / Front Page

Filing deadline is next week for town office candidates

Voters may have a limited field of candidates from which to choose
By Jeff McDonough

Island campaign politics begin again next week, as Jamestowners will go to the polls in November to elect a town moderator, five Town Council members and three School Committee members.

The filing deadline for candidates seeking office this fall is the first hurdle in the process. Candidates must file the proper legal paperwork with the Jamestown Board of Canvassers at Town Hall on Thursday, Aug. 20, and Friday, Aug. 21.

The candidate filing period closes at 4 p.m. on Aug. 21.

Karen Montoya, who serves as the clerk to the Board of Canvassers, said island voters will also be asked to approve several amendments to the Town Charter in the fall election.

One charter amendment would change the timing of Jamestown’s future local elections to align with the state and national elections, Montoya said. The proposed change would save the town about $10,300 per election, she said, and could result in a larger voter turnout in local elections.

Typically, about twice as many islanders vote in the state and national elections as those who vote in the off-year local elections, she said.

If voters approve the charter amendment, the next Town Council would serve for three years, instead of the usual two, so that the following local election will align with the state and national schedule, Montoya said.

The proposed charter amendment change would also impact the length of time the next School Committee members serve, she added.

Montoya said she would not know until late next week whether a primary election will be required. If a primary is needed, the last day for islanders to register to vote will be Saturday, Aug. 29, at Town Hall, she said.

There has been concern among island political insiders that this election year may leave Jamestown voters with little choice.

The Jamestown Democratic Town Committee is expected to field a full slate of candidates, one committee member told the Press on Wednesday morning.

However, the Jamestown Republican Town Committee may have few – if any – candidates running in the fall town election.

Tina Harsch, who chairs the local GOP committee, told the Press on Wednesday that the Republicans do not have any defi- nite candidates, although a few people have expressed interest.

“We are still hoping, but it is very hard to get people to run,” she said. “Sadly, there isn’t the interest.”

Harsch said the recentlyformed citizen taxpayer group has said it will remain non-partisan, but “would listen to what our candidates” had to say.

Harsch said the two-party political system is vital so that island voters have a choice at the polls and that there is public discussion of the issues. Otherwise, “we become a banana republic,” she added.

In last week’s Jamestown Press, Sav Rebecchi said in a letter to the editor that it might be time for Jamestowners to consider holding non-partisan elections.

Rebecchi, who himself has run for public office in Jamestown, told the Press on Tuesday that this year, it is more important than ever that people consider running for office as independents – without a political party affiliation. Rebecchi said Newport has successfully operated with non-partisan elections for a number of years.

Without independent candidates, Rebecchi said, islanders may not have a choice in the fall election.

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