Archive for Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Next stop: April 5

Council candidates preparing for closely contested election

March 2, 2005

For the three candidates who hadn't withdrawn from the race, there was little to gain and everything to lose in Tuesday's primary election. After all, no one wanted to be the guy that lost to a non-candidate, candidate.

But, by the time the deal went down and election results were finalized by Leavenworth County officials, the three candidates -- incumbent Keith Sifford and political newcomers David Povilonis and Terry Thomas -- who were supposed to advance, could breathe easier.

All three candidates will move onto the April 5 general election. So will Bob Moore, a self-avowed non-candidate and perhaps this election's wildcard.

More on that later.

Voter turnout Tuesday was paltry: only 165 voters, or 8.4 percent of Basehor's 1,962-member electorate made it to the polls. Results from those who did cast a ballot are listed below:

  • David Povilonis, 85 votes or 29 percent.
  • Terry Thomas, 82 votes or 28 percent.
  • Keith Sifford, 77 votes or 26 percent.
  • Bob Moore, 28 votes or 9 percent.
  • James Washington, 19 votes or 6 percent.

On the surface, and exampled by Tuesday's ballot, there were only five candidates for voters to choose from in the bid for City Council and four of them would advance, meaning there wasn't much of a question for voters to decide. However, beneath appearances and perhaps clouding the primary election was the fact that two of those candidates -- Washington and Moore -- had made public their wishes for voters not to cast ballots their way.

Weeks before the vote, each man had essentially withdrawn from the race. Kansas law, however, stipulated that their names remain on the ballot. Coupled together, the candidates' withdrawal and election law, made it a certainty that at least one of them would advance to the general election, and it was possible that even both could do so.

If they tied, a coin toss would take place to determine who would advance.

Things never got that strange Tuesday night, but judging by the margin separating the three front-runners and Moore's post-election comments, voters are no closer to learning today who will be their two new council representatives than they were on Jan. 25 -- the filing deadline.

Only eight votes separated Povilonis, Thomas and Sifford during the primary and each of them has hurdles to overcome before April 5. The general election will also include questions on school board and mayoral candidates meaning that turnout will be higher and more votes up for grabs.

Each candidate said there was plenty of work to do, the outcome of race was still anyone's guess and that a March 23 candidate forum would be crucial in determining who would emerge from the April election.

"It's going to be tight, that's for sure," Sifford said. "It's time to buckle down and get ready to go to work. That's what it's going to take. Work begins now." He added, "It's going to be interesting. I think "Meet the Candidates" is going to be huge. It adds a whole new dimension to that thing."

"The top three are pretty close," Povilonis said. "It's a lot of competition. There's a lot of work to do before April."

Thomas may have put it best when he said, simply, "I think it's going to be a very exciting general election."

For Povilonis, a City Council candidate in 2003, the primary election provided a much different perspective Tuesday night than it did two years ago.

Povilonis, a resident of four years, didn't have the same name recognition in his previous bid as did his opponents, but said he's countered that problem by getting out in the public more during this campaign. It's worked. As evidenced by the primary, Povilonis finds himself as the leading contender for one of the two council seats.

"It's much, much different," he said. "I've lived here a little longer this time and done more things. I'm pleased with how the vote turned out" He said that a lot of ground will be won and lost during the next month and a portion of that middle ground could be decided during the candidate forum.

Unfortunately, circumstances prevent Povilonis from attending. He said a long-planned family vacation is scheduled for the same week of the forum and precludes him from presenting his platform before undecided voters.

"Yeah, I think a lot of things are going to happen during the forum," he said. "I'm not going to be there -- but I think my message is getting out." The council favorite said he would increase his campaign efforts before April 5 in an effort to overcome his absence.

Entering the primary, Thomas faced similar name recognition problems that Povilonis did years ago. Although involved in a local church and the Basehor PRIDE civic organization, Thomas, a resident of two years, was a relative unknown to many voters.

He indicated as much after the primary, but said he's hoping voters are looking for something they haven't seen before from the batch of council candidates.

"I'm very pleased with the results," Thomas said. "Even though I'm a new guy, I think it shows people are ready for a change."

Thomas plans to enhance his campaign in coming weeks by going door-to-door in area neighborhoods and placing yard signs around town. He will also attend the candidate's forum three weeks from now.

Though only a handful of votes separated him from top two spots in the primary election, Sifford, the incumbent, currently finds himself outside looking in. He has an advantage for the job over the other two candidates -- more than a year of on-the-job council experience -- and a month to push that notion and his campaign platform to voters before the general election.

Sifford said all he hoped to win on Tuesday was a spot in the top four -- a notion shared by many of the candidates. The primary was very much about surviving and advancing, he said.

"It's tight and it's going to be really tough," Sifford said. "I'm certainly satisfied with my showing. I think maybe there will be a bigger turnout in April. That's going to help somebody."

Sifford will attend the candidate's forum.

As it was before Tuesday, the unknown factor in the City Council election is Moore, who advanced by receiving only 9 more votes than non-candidate, candidate, Washington. Moore wasn't surprised he's moving onto the general election.

"I wasn't surprised at that," Moore said. "I talked to people who said 'I'm going to vote for you anyway.'"

After election results were finalized, Moore, who after withdrawing from the race threw support behind fellow candidates Povilonis and Thomas, stopped short of endorsing either of those candidates again and said he was considering re-entering the race.

"I thought about getting back into the race, but I have to have until about Monday to make up my mind," said Moore, citing potential business opportunities as a possible roadblock to campaigning and council service. "I've thought about it and thought about it. I want to see something changed (in city government). I just don't know how to make that happen."

If he re-enters the race, Moore would be the x-factor. As witnessed by the primary, he has a base of support that could be re-energized from his resumed campaign; also, he could be the monkey wrench for the three other tightly contested candidates by taking away votes.

However, he faces obstacles just like his rivals do.

Will voters be turned off by his initial withdrawal? Will a late campaign hinder his chances in April?

These are questions that won't be answered until Moore makes a final decision.

Moore will also attend the candidate forum. Whether he will attend as an interested citizen, political backer or another option for voters on the April ticket remains to be seen.

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