Government

5 Linn County supervisors to compete for 3 seats

Primary and general election contests pit incumbents

(File photo) Linn County supervisors discuss the naming of a new public health building at a meeting of the Linn County Supervisors in the Jean Oxley Public Service Center in Cedar Rapids on Monday, May 22, 2017. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
(File photo) Linn County supervisors discuss the naming of a new public health building at a meeting of the Linn County Supervisors in the Jean Oxley Public Service Center in Cedar Rapids on Monday, May 22, 2017. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — All five Linn County supervisors — four Democrats and a Republican — are seeking re-election in this November’s general election.

However, only three seats will be available as the county board shrinks to three members next year, so incumbents are left competing.

With Wednesday’s deadline for candidate filing passed, incumbents James Houser, Stacey Walker, Ben Rogers, Brent Oleson and John Harris all have announced plans to seek re-election.

In addition, County Auditor Joel Miller said Wednesday he plans to run for the District 2 supervisor’s seat and will add his name to the general election ballot this fall. The former Democrat will run as a No Party candidate, meaning he does not have to file a nomination petition until August.

Rogers, Oleson and Harris will not face primary competition, barring write-in candidates or those added through convention.

But in District 1 — which covers southwest Cedar Rapids and portions of the northwest and southeast quadrants — Houser, with more than two decades on the board, will face Walker, who joined the board in 2016, win the June 5 Democratic primary.

With no Republicans running in District 1, the results of the primary could determine the District 1 supervisor, said Bret Nilles, chairman of the Linn County Democrats.

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In District 2 — which covers northeast Cedar Rapids, Robins and Hiawatha — Rogers, a Democrat and supervisor since 2008, could face Miller, the Linn County auditor since 2007, in the Nov. 6 general election.

In District 3 — which covers Marion, Mount Vernon and most of rural Linn County — Harris, a two-term Republican and former Palo mayor, will face Oleson, a Democrat and Marion attorney who has been on the board since 2008, in the November general election.

With a packed field of well-known incumbents, Becky Stonawski, deputy commissioner of elections with Linn County’s Auditor’s Office, said voter turnout could be higher than typical in a non-presidential election year.

“I think every single candidate has name recognition, so every single candidate has a large voter base to pull from,” she said.

With four of the five supervisor candidates Democrats, and the party seeing a heavily contested governor’s race, Stonawski said she anticipates higher turnout among Democrats in the primary election — 20 percent — than the 10 to 12 percent among Republicans and Libertarians.

Linn County, as of this week, has 52,470 registered Democrats, 39,946 Republicans, 56,372 No Party and 1,179 Libertarians.

Iowa has a closed primary system, meaning residents must be registered as a Democrat, Republican or Libertarian to vote in a primary, though people can change their registration to vote in a primary.

Nilles, the county’s Democratic chairman, also anticipates a higher voter turnout from Democrats this year.

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“I think it’s going to be much larger than prior years for primary turnout ... just due to the amount of tension nationally that elections are getting,” he said. “We have a couple competitive races here in Linn County as well.”

Meanwhile, Justin Wasson, chairman of the Linn County Republican Party, said he, too, doesn’t expect a high turnout among Republicans in the June primary. Butthe general election in November should be a different story, he said.

“Republicans generally tend to vote better on non-presidential years,” he said. “So we’ll see how that plays out. I think there’s plenty of reasons to be optimistic.”

Linn County voters in 2016 voted to reduce the Linn County Board of Supervisors from five to three, leading to the new three-district county map. Only voters living in a district can vote on the supervisor for that district.

Earlier this year in a blind drawing, District 1 and District 2 were selected for four-year supervisor terms. District 3 will have a two-year term, with another election for a four-year term in 2020. The end result will maintain the county’s staggered terms for supervisor.

l Comments: (319) 398-8309; mitchell.schmidt@thegazette.com

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