When you head to the polls this fall, expect to see few Democrats on your ballot.
That’s not uncommon for the county, which has had no more than one contested local race between Republicans and Democrats in the last three county wide elections.
No Democrats had filed in the primary for Johnson County positions, and none have been added to the ballot as of
Friday. No one has expressed interest in running for the local positions and party chairman Bob Kramer didn’t expect to have any new candidates.
The deadline for the Democratic Party to have a caucus and notify the clerk’s office of new candidates is today, with the deadline to actually file on Thursday, Johnson County Clerk Sue Anne Misiniec said.
County and township government offices all have Republican candidates lined up for the fall election, but no Democrats. The local officials you will vote for this year make decisions about local policies and how to spend tax dollars including a county commissioner and county council members. Other positions up for election this year include sheriff, clerk, assessor, auditor, recorder and township trustees and board members.
As of now, four Democrats will be listed on the fall ballot, but all are running for state or national offices. Those include a state senator position, two state representative seats, and the 9th Congressional District seat that covers the entire county.
Without contested local races, Misiniec expects the county could have another dismally low turnout, she said. The county had a record-low turnout in the primary, when only 9 percent of voters cast ballots. In some precincts, turnout was less than 2 percent of registered voters.
School board races and contests for some state offices could generate additional interest, Misiniec said.
The Democratic Party has been able to field candidates for higher-level offices at the state and national levels, and local residents are more likely to run in smaller areas, such as for cities and towns. City council or town board positions represent a smaller area where they can get out and knock on doors and try to meet every voter in their district, Rapp said.
The county is too big to accomplish that level of one-on-one interaction, which candidates need to have to run a strong campaign, party vice-chair Cindy Rapp said.
Years and years of election-night losses also have made it difficult to find people to run for countywide positions, Rapp said.
Even when Democrats don’t win, they make elections better by challenging both sides to talk about local issues and meet with residents and discuss their concerns, Rapp said.
“It’s better for the county when we have checks and balances in government, and we don’t right now,” Rapp said. “Even if you don’t win, you still make a difference. You make government better and you make the people more informed.”
A contested race for county commissioner was on the 2012 ballot, and the sheriff’s race was two-party in 2010. In 2008, no Democrats were on the fall ballot for county positions.
Republicans outnumber Democrats by about 2-to-1 and since it’s been decades since a Democrat has held a countywide office, voters have been ingrained to vote Republican, Kramer said. Yearly defeats have discouraged candidates from running because overcoming the majority can seem insurmountable, he said.
“It’s hard to get people to run against that. I think that’s the bottom line. I think people that would be interested in running and would compete if there were a level playing field and voters look at the candidates,” Kramer said.