Our Opinion: The dispiriting case of the missing candidates

The dark and stormy November sky was as gun-metal gray as the Mighty Missouri battleship.

The footsteps ascending the stairs sounded a drumming dirge before a shapeless shadow flickered across the frosted glass and the door opened to reveal a morose municipality, bereft of the spark created by coming choices and challenges.

The visitor introduced itself as Jefferson, City of, and inquired about finding missing persons.

“Who, exactly, is missing?”

“Candidates,” was the response. “The city next year will hold elections for seven offices and, so far, we have only one race.”

“And how long have the candidates been missing?”

Jefferson, City of, explained challengers largely have been missing since filing opened Nov. 13. “We have elections in each of the city’s five wards and the offices of municipal judge and city prosecutor. So far, the incumbents have re-filed, except in the 1st Ward, where the incumbent was prohibited by term limits.”

“Any newcomers?”

“Two, so far. James Branch is seeking the vacated 1st Ward seat and Blake Markus is challenging incumbent Shawn Schulte in the 2nd Ward.”

“How can the missing candidates be recognized?”

Jefferson, City of, outlined the requirements. Because city elections are nonpartisan, no party affiliation is required, but candidates must have three endorsements from registered voters in the area they seek to serve.

In addition, council candidates must be at least age 21, and a qualified voter of Jefferson City and U.S. citizen. Also, they must have lived in the city for a year and in their ward for at least six months before the election.”

Candidates for prosecutor and judge both must be city residents and licensed attorneys in the state. And the judge must be between the ages of 24 and 75.

“That doesn’t narrow it down very much. A lot of city residents meet those requirements.”

“That’s the point,” Jefferson, City of, responded. The municipality explained the requirements for candidates are meant to be inclusive, not restrictive.

“How much time is left?”

“Less than two weeks,” Jefferson, City of, lamented. “Filing ends Dec. 18.”

So the search for qualified candidates continues because elections are about choices for voters.

A dearth of candidates negates choices and relegates an election to a mere formality. And that, indeed, is a dreary tale.

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