MOUNT WASHINGTON – Abolishing partisan city elections could be the last action that the Mount Washington city council is remembered for if it passes a proposed ordinance establishing nonpartisan elections for city offices this December.
The ordinance, which was introduced by councilman Greg Gentry, would abolish partisan elections and primaries for the offices of mayor and council members.
The council had its first reading of the ordinance at Monday night's meeting and will vote on the issue Dec. 22.
There was little discussion among the current council about the ordinance, which is primarily Democratic, except councilman Gary Lawson.
Gentry was the only council person who discussed the ordinance during the meeting.
"My name is on this ordinance," Gentry said. "And it will take out running twice a year. I do think we're all up here for the good of Mount Washington. Whether we're up here as democrats or republicans, we're still all up here for the city."
The November city council race stirred up the current council. As of January, republicans control four of the board‘s six seats.
Current democratic council members Gentry, Emily Rucker and Brent Wheeler will be replaced by three Republicans -- Larry Porter, Dale Walter and Dennis Griffin. Republican Gary Lawson was re-elected as were Democrats Lloyd "Shot" Dooley and Barry Armstrong.
Following the election some council members questioned if the order of candidates listed on the ballot affected the city council's race. According to the Bullitt County Clerk’s Office, the party affiliation of the current president at the time of an election determines which party’s candidates are listed first.
However, in an interview following the meeting, Gentry said he wasn't looking to create divisiveness between the parties or blame the ballots for not getting reelected.
"I've always thought, even before I ran, that I wanted the nonpartisan elections," he said. "A lot of people are in favor of it. But I think a lot of this election's outcome was that people were voting straight tickets.
"I think we all had a fair shot because our names were on the ballot, but I think the partisanship comes into play in bigger elections."
Counilwoman Rucker said she did feel the ballots needed to be more fair, such as listing the candidates from each party side by side.
"I don't consider myself a politician. But I do think the nonpartisan (ordinance) is a good idea because it will take some of the party out of it."
Rucker, who was listed second to last on November's ballot, said she believed people who weren’t informed about the races voted their party or for the first six names listed.
"I do believe placement does have something to do with it," she said.
Council member-elect Griffin said he didn't have a problem with non-partisan elections, but thought it appeared the council was trying to get the ordinance passed quickly before the new members came on board.
"I just think it's bad timing on their part," Griffin said. "They have a democratic council and now they waited until the republicans were coming in to do this. They've been talking about this for years and they wait until now to do it."
Council member-elect Walter said he thought the proposed ordinance could be positive for the city elections and for the citizens. He said candidates would save money if they didn't have to campaign before the primary election.
"I don't think that it will be any better or worse for the council," Walter said. "And I don't think it will affect the residents of Mount Washington whatsoever. I didn't run republican or democrat. I'm just here for Mount Washington."
If the ordinance passes, city council members and future mayors will be selected during the general election.
The council will still be selected based upon the six candidates who receive the greatest number of votes.
The council will have its second reading and vote on the issue at its Dec. 22 meeting, 6:30 p.m. at the city hall annex on Branham Way.