To the Editor,
I am writing as a long-time local elected official and community volunteer to express my strong opposition to Kentucky Senate Bill 50 and House Bill 50 which require partisan local elections including the offices of County Commissioner, Mayor, Legislative Body members, all City Offices, City Ward, Boards of Education, School Board candidates and Soil and Water Conservation Officers.
The rationale I have heard by those pushing these bills is that this legislation will create much needed transparency so that voters can make better decisions about candidates and ostensibly lead to the election of more Republican officials.
Since 1998, I served eight consecutive terms on the Fort Wright City Council, and I am in my third term as the Mayor of Fort Wright, so I have run for office eleven times over the course of twenty-four years. I have also spent hundreds if not thousands of hours at public meetings and walked door-to-door for myself and other candidates and in all that time, I have very rarely been asked about my party affiliation, and I have never hesitated to share it when asked. To be clear, I am a lifelong Republican, I served nearly two decades on the Kenton County Republican Party Executive Committee, won the inaugural Senator Jim Bunning Man of the Year Award and the Kenton County Republican Party Lifetime Achievement Award.
I have worked closely and collaboratively for more than two decades with people of all parties to improve our local, regional and statewide community and have never let party stand in the way of doing what is right. Based on my actual l experience, I can say with absolute certainty that these misguided bills are not in the best interest of Kentuckians and will only create unwelcome discord and dissention. City Council issues are rarely partisan, instead, we are focused on local issues such as public safety, infrastructure, taxes, zoning and economic development. The injection of party politics through partisan elections will only further divide our communities and make it much more difficult for local officials to work together for the good of our communities.
Many local legislative bodies already have tremendous issues with finding enough people to fill available seats and many people who are knowledgeable, experienced and dedicated to serving their communities may not want to affiliate themselves with a political party and the possible rancor that comes with it. The passage of these bills will further limit the pool of candidates and the diversity of ideas, ultimately leading to a less representative and less effective local government. Furthermore, the addition of primary elections will create substantial additional costs and hurdles for candidates as well as the Board of Elections.
As evidenced in the last election, at least in Northern Kentucky, there are already serious issues with finding enough poll workers to have efficient and effective elections. Adding more elections and substantially more cost to the process is exactly what we don't need.
It is also important to note that current state statutes allow local legislative bodies and boards to opt for partisan elections giving those closest to their constituents the ability to make this change if their constituents desire it. As of this writing, I am unaware of any legislative body in Kentucky that has made this change in the recent past of their own accord, clearly indicating little public appetite for this change.
In light of these facts and because our long serving members of Fort Wright City Council (more than 50 years of collective service) have also very rarely been asked about party affiliation, we passed a resolution against these two bills. Despite the passage of our Resolution [01-2023] and our widespread promotion of the Resolution to our constituents, I have yet to be in contacted by a single person in favor of either bill.
Finally, the Kentucky League of Cities Board of Directors has voted unanimously to oppose these bills and the Kenton County Mayor’s Group has passed a resolution against these bills. I have spoken with many other local elected officials and I am confident that you will soon see many other local legislative bodies come out strongly opposed as well.
In conclusion, I and my colleagues on the Fort Wright City Council strongly oppose the passage of Kentucky Senate Bill 50 or House Bill 50 and I urge you to reach out immediately to your state legislators and urge them to oppose these expensive, unnecessary and divisive bills.
You can find your legislators and contact them here: https://legislature.ky.gov/Legislators/Pages/default.aspx.
City of Fort Wright, Kentucky