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Monday, July 9, 2007
An Early Look at American Fork's City Council Election

The two-week filing period is half gone . . .

Four of five seats on the American Fork City Council are up for election this November. Ordinarily -- whatever that word means here -- there would be only three this year, because three of five four-year terms are expiring. However, as seems to be the case more often than not, there is another seat to be filled for half a term. This time it is the seat vacated by the late Councilman Jimmie Cates and temporarily filled by the recent appointment of Sherrie Kramer. Two years ago it was the seated vacated by Councilman Tom Hunter's resignation -- and filled until the election by the appointment of Councilman Cates. Two years before that . . . but you get the picture. This happens a lot.

Only the seat occupied by Councilmember Heidi Rodeback, known affectionately here at the blog as MFCC, is not up for election in November. Her term expires in January 2010, just after the November 2009 election.

Here is a quick look at the other incumbents:

Councilman Rick Storrs is finishing his fourth term. I expect he will not run for reelection -- but he would probably win if he did. He is well liked, and -- except for a high-profile misstep or two in connection with others' campaigns in the past -- has not tended to expose himself to voter anger or displeasure. If he does not run, there will be at least one less incumbent running than there will be seats to run for, so there will be at least one new face on the Council in January.

Councilman Shirl LeBaron has already announced that he will run for a second term. Until I know for certain who else is running, it's hard to say how he or anyone else will fare, but I suspect he will win. I think it a very good thing to have an attorney on the Council, in part to serve as a check on the City Attorneys. I value his experience on the Council, and I like the fact that he blogs -- not for blogging's sake, to be sure, but as an indication that he values substantive communication with the public enough to attempt it on a regular basis. He did not fare well in the 2005 mayoral race, but this is a different year, a different office, with different opponents.

Councilman Dale Gunther ran for the two-year half-term in the last election. His financial acumen and business sense, not to mention his capacity for hard work, have made him an enormous asset on a Council facing serious financial and budget issues, including some grown larger through years of neglect. Without Councilman Gunther, relying on relevant City staff alone, the present Council would have been far less effective, less well informed, and less judicious in its decisions. To my knowledge he has not formally declared his candidacy for reelection, but I expect he will do so. I would be unsurprised to see him run for the available two-year half-term, as he did before. He will be a formidable, probably unbeatable, candidate.

Councilmember Sherrie Kramer has been on the job a few weeks, filling in for the late Councilman Cates. I haven't heard whether she intends to run for election, either, but I expect she will. See a recent post for my early thoughts on her. She, like any other candidate, incumbent or otherwise, may file for either the available half-term or for a full term. Assuming she chooses to run, I expect an energetic, intelligent, ultimately effective campaign.

We'll know for sure whether these incumbents are running, and who else may be running, one week from today, because we are midway through the two-week filing period. Previously situated in the first half of August, the filing period is now July 1 through July 15 -- except that it is really July 2 through July 16 this year, allowing for weekends. Perhaps that seems early, but a primary election, if one is needed, is less than three months away, and the general election only about a month after that. There is little enough time for organizing and campaigning.

Each candidate will file either for the two-year seat or for one -- any -- of the four-year seats (not for a specific four-year seat). These will be two separate races (not four). If more than two candidates file for the half-term, a primary election will reduce that field to two, and the November general election will pick the winner. If more than six candidates file for the full terms (two per available seat), a primary will determine the top six candidates, who will be on the general ballot in November. These will be the top six vote-getters in a single race. In November's election the top three vote-getters will win seats.

All City Council seats in American Fork are at large, voted on and representing the entire city; the city is not divided for representation into districts, as larger cities often are.

This may not be true of a primary election, if one is held, but voter turnout is likely to be unusually high in November, because of the school vouchers resolution that will be on the ballot. It is already the object of a high-profile, increasingly bitter campaign. I expect both sides to mobilize voters effectively.

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