Races set for Shawnee mayor, council, with primary to be held March 3
The Johnson County League of Women Voters Mayoral Debate at the Johnson County Library in Shawnee off Johnson Drive.
The races have been locked in for the upcoming Spring 2015 general election and Shawnee is the only city in Johnson County that will hold a primary election for mayor.
Four candidates are in the running this year to replace current Mayor Jeff Meyers, who is coming to the end of his third term. Current council members Michelle Distler, Jeff Vaught and Dan Pflumm are making a run for the position along with former city council member John Segale.
The filing deadline for the mayoral election and City Council elections was Jan. 27 and the primary election is March 3.
There will be two races on the council for a Ward I and Ward II seat. In Ward I, council member Jim Neighbor is seeking re-election over challenger Ben Terrill. In Ward II, incumbent Neal Sawyer is facing challenger Eric Jenkins, a former planning commission member.
The mayoral primary will likely be a hotly contested one, given the recent history of voter turnout for municipal elections, particularly primaries. According to the Johnson County Election Office, in 2012, the city's last mayoral election, only 13 percent of registered voters in Shawnee cast their ballots, about 5,200 people. In the 2012 primary between Meyers, Jenkins and Segale, only 3,425 voters cast their ballot.
The history of voter turnout for the municipal election is significantly lower than the turnout for state and national elections. In the 2014 midterm state elections, the city saw a turnout of over 30 percent of registered voters. The turnout boosted the number of voters on a city ballot question over the renewal of the parks and pipes sales tax and the creation of a new street improvements sales tax. About 21,000 people voted on the questions, about 40 percent of all registered voters in Shawnee.
In the 2012 presidential election, all precincts in Shawnee reported an average of about a 70 percent registered voter turnout, according to the Johnson County Election office.
The lack of turnout for municipal elections baffles some of the candidates who say the local government officials are the ones who make important decision in the local community about property taxes, sales taxes road improvements and other things.
"What we do at the local level is what impacts the residents most in their day-to-day lives," Distler said.
The schedule leading up to the March 3 spring primary begins for voters on Feb. 10, the last day to register to vote. Advance voting by mail begins Feb. 11 and advance voting in person begins Feb. 24. The last day to request a ballot by mail is Feb. 27 and the last day to advance vote in person is March 2.
The two races for City Council seats will not require a primary and those seats will be decided on April 7. In Wards III and IV, council members Stephanie Meyer and Mickey Sandifer are running unopposed.