Saturday, October 18, 2003

Eliminating primary considered

Some Independence officials find it a costly hassle

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

INDEPENDENCE - Some officials in this fast-growing Kenton County town want to do away with primaries in city races. They say local primaries are an unnecessary expense and a hassle for taxpayers and candidates alike.

Mayor Chris Moriconi said that he will ask city council to discuss the proposed change at Monday's informal caucus meeting.

"I think primaries are good for countywide and statewide races,'' Moriconi said. "But I don't think they're needed on a city level...Hopefully, we can make the change in time so that we don't need to have a primary next May.''

Kenton County Clerk Bill Aylor said Independence officials would have to enact an ordinance before the Jan. 27 filing deadline if they opt to do away with city primaries. The last Kenton County primary in May, 2002, had an 8.6 percent turnout.

Independence is one of three Kenton County cities -- Erlanger and Covington are the others -- that use the primary system to eliminate candidates in city races. In May 2002, a primary whittled 13 Independence City Council candidates to 12 for the general election.

"We had a primary this last go-round, and it seemed a little bit of overkill to me,'' said Council Member Jim Bushong.

Officials switched to the primary system after the city's explosive growth prompted the Kentucky General Assembly to reclassify Independence as a third-class city in 2000.

"Once we became a third-class city, the primary came along with it,'' said Council Member Donna Yeager. She said the city's first primary, in May 2002, was a costly hassle for candidates who had to run lengthy campaigns for the $3,000-a-year office.

Council Member Mary Pat Behler said that she's leaning toward eliminating Independence primaries for that very reason. Council Member Carol Franzen said that she has mixed feelings.

"The last election cycle, I think it was a waste of time, because we had 13 candidates and we had to have a primary to eliminate one,'' Franzen said. However, she said a number of people have expressed interest in running for city council in 2004.

"If you have 18 or 20 candidates, I definitely think you need a primary,'' she said.

In November 1996, 11 people ran for the six Independence City Council seats. Fourteen ran in November 1998, and 13 sought a two-year council term in November 2000.


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