Our local town and city elections are supposed to be nonpartisan. Same for the school board.
What does that mean? It means the candidates run on their own platform with no party labels and no party agenda attached to the names.
In theory, we’re judging these candidates strictly on what they bring to the table in terms of vision, enthusiasm and life experience — not whether they belong to a particular “tribe.”
As we should be. City councilors, town trustees and school board members deal with the most basic — and arguably the most important — issues in our community. They have enough on their plates taking care of the day-to-day business of fixing roads, educating children and trying to grow the economy. They don’t need the distraction and destruction of the partisan culture wars that plague state and national politics.
And yet, for a second election cycle in this year alone, we’re seeing local forces attempting to frame this election in something close to partisan terms. Our beleaguered Mesa County clerk and recorder is complicit in this matter, dragging local election outcomes into her fanciful notions of voter fraud.
As we noted last week, Tina Peters recently said she was “shocked” at the candidates who won seats on the Grand Junction City Council in the spring. “It just didn’t make sense,” she added.
Saying the “wrong” people won violates the spirit of nonpartisan elections and insults the voters who took time to get to know the candidates. Apparently, in Peters’ mind, only the most conservative candidates have any business winning local elections. (Interestingly, all of the candidates were either registered as Republicans or unaffiliated.)
We’re seeing that same dynamic begin to play out in the upcoming school board election. On two occasions, letters to the editor have encouraged voters to elect a bloc of Angela Lema, Will Jones and Andrea Haitz, all of whom were endorsed at one point by the Mesa County Republican Party.
The candidates themselves didn’t attempt to align themselves in any particular way when they came in to talk to the Sentinel’s editorial board. Each simply made a case for why they want to run and what’s important to them.
A lot of this grouping is just human nature. We see it in the way political signs are erected around town. For every yard that has signs for Lema, Jones and Haitz, there’s another with signs asking voters to support David Combs, Trish Mahre and Nick Allan.
On Wednesday, we’ll have the first of our endorsements for the Mesa County Valley School District 51 Board of Education. Those endorsement will be informed by the conversations we had with the candidates — not by voters and elections officials trying to shade the outcome based on partisan leanings.