Our Opinion: Towns' voters deserve more choices in 2021 | The Wilson Times
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EDITORIAL

Our Opinion: Towns' voters deserve more choices in 2021

Posted on July 5, 2021

OpinionEditorials
This notice of candidacy form is the first step to running for office in a North Carolina city or town. Wilson County has 26 seats up for grabs in the 2021 municipal elections.

N.C. State Board of Elections image via screen capture

This notice of candidacy form is the first step to running for office in a North Carolina city or town. Wilson County has 26 seats up for grabs in the 2021 municipal elections.

Before it became a cliché, it was an apt metaphor, and before that, a literal means of challenging a top-ranked boxer to a bout.

In the early 19th century, contenders would indeed throw their hats into the ring. Today, the phrase is used almost exclusively to describe the process of seeking elected office.

We need more Wilson County residents to make that figurative hat toss and answer the call to public service. Championship belts shouldn’t be won by forfeit, and neither should town mayor, commissioner and council member seats.

The two-week candidate filing period for municipal elections began Friday and continues until noon on Friday, July 16. If you live in the towns of Black Creek, Elm City, Lucama, Saratoga, Sims or Stantonsburg, you have an opportunity to put your name forward for consideration.

Ditto for residents of two towns whose boundaries extend into Wilson County — Sharpsburg, which also straddles Nash and Edgecombe counties, and Kenly, which is mostly contained within Johnston County.

Wilson City Council elections are postponed until March due to delays in 2020 U.S. Census Bureau data that could reshape the city’s voting districts. Elections in Wilson County’s small towns are on schedule because these municipalities elect commissioners and council members at large rather than by population-defined districts.

There are 26 jobs to fill, and voters will comprise the selection committee.

Black Creek and Elm City will each elect a mayor and five commissioners. Saratoga will elect a mayor and three commissioners. Lucama, Sims and Stantonsburg will choose three town board members each.

Two years ago, Black Creek, Elm City and Sims elected mayors who ran unopposed. Two candidates filed for Sims’ two commissioner seats and Elm City had five open commissioner seats and only four names on the ballot, all but ensuring everyone who filed for office would be victorious on Election Day.

In Black Creek, six candidates filed for five commissioner seats. In Stantonsburg, three candidates sought two open seats on the town board. And in Saratoga, four people sought three seats. These races at least allowed voters to play musical chairs and eliminate one person from contention.

Only three contests — for the mayorships of Stantonsburg, Saratoga and Lucama — were truly competitive, with two candidates in each town vying for the mayor’s gavel. In Lucama, both were write-in candidates, as no one initially filed for office.

We’d like to see, at minimum, two candidates for every seat in 2021. That isn’t a knock on any of our incumbents who plan to seek re-election, it’s simply an acknowledgment that voters in a representative democracy deserve choices.

When candidates run unopposed, victory is virtually guaranteed. Human nature tells us that politicians without opponents aren’t likely to spend a lot of time campaigning and won’t be as responsive to constituents’ concerns as they would be if someone else was vying for the same job.

Competition puts voters in the driver’s seat. In order to be successful, candidates have to pound the pavement, share their views on local issues and listen to the people who will ultimately decide their fate at the ballot box.

Municipal elections are nonpartisan. You can belong to any political party or no party at all. You can be a young professional, a middle-aged parent, a senior citizen, a retiree. Men and women of all backgrounds, races and stages of life can answer the call to serve.

The Wilson Times does not endorse candidates for public office, but we encourage all comers to step up to the proverbial plate.

Competitive races are a win for everyone involved. Incumbents who seek to retain their seats want a mandate and a vote of confidence from those they represent. A lack of opposition deprives them of that, and comedian John Oliver describes the resulting hollow victories as “defeating the very concept of nothing.”

Incumbents need challengers. Voters need choices.

And if you have ideas to help make your community a better place to live, work and play, Wilson County needs you on the ballot.

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