Twenty-one candidates have filed for five seats on on the Billings City Council. Their number will be reduced to 10 in the Sept. 10 nonpartisan primary election. Those winners will run again in the Nov. 5 general election.
With seven candidates filing Monday just hours before the deadline, the 2019 nonpartisan municipal primary will have more candidates than in 2015, the last election without a mayoral race, when 19 filed. In 2017, 18 candidates filed for the five ward seats and seven candidates competed in the mayor primary. Mayor Bill Cole is halfway through his four-year term, so the mayor's office isn't on this year's ballot.
The large number of candidates should give voters real choices. We commend every candidate who has stepped forward to work for the betterment of community. Council members need to devote significant time and energy to this elected job. The pay is nominal: $7,200 annually.
- In Ward 1, three candidates will vie to succeed Brent Cromley, who couldn't seek re-election because the City Charter limits council members to two consecutive four-year terms. The primary candidates are Kendra Shaw, John S. Armstrong and Jim Ronquillo, who previously served on the council.
- In Ward 2, Roy Neese, who was appointed to the council earlier this year to fill the vacancy created by Larry Brewster's resignation, is the only council incumbent seeking election. His opponents are: Michael Richardson, Randy Heinz and Roger Gravgaard. Gravgaard ran unsuccessfully in the 2017 election for the seat that Frank Ewalt won.
- In Ward 3, incumbent Chris Friedel didn't file for re-election, so three newcomers will compete in the primary: Danny Choriki, Matthew S. Melvin and Aldo A. Rowe.
- In Ward 4, incumbent Reg Gibbs, who was appointed to fill the vacancy created by Ryan Sullivan's resignation, didn't file for election, but six people did: Pam Purinton, Daron Olson, Gordon Olson, Carmelita Dominguez, Nicole Gallagher and Matthew J. Senn.
- In Ward 5, incumbent Dick Clark didn't seek reelection. Voters will have five primary choices: Dennis L. Ulvestad, Leilahni Kay, Mike Boyett, Jennifer Merecki and Frederick J. Wilburn.
These candidates will need to do some work this summer to meet their ward neighbors and let them know why they want to serve on the council. The rest of us Billings voters have a job too: get to know your candidates so you can make an informed decision in the primary and general elections. The time of decision may be closer than it seems. Municipal election ballots will be mailed out on Aug. 23 — two months from this week. The primary is a summer election.
As part of The Gazette's effort to inform voters, we will be inviting candidates to answer brief questions to share their thoughts on city government issues. Those candidate comments will be presented on the opinion pages before the election.
The Gazette invites and encourages candidates to send us notice of your campaign events that are open to all voters, such as forums or meet and greets. We will publicize them on the opinion page.
Letters to the editor from candidates also are welcome and must comply with our usual guidelines (maximum 250 words, one letter per 30 days). Letters may be emailed to email@example.com, faxed to 406-657-1209, mailed to The Billings Gazette, Voice of the Reader, P.O. Box 36300, Billings, MT 59105 or delivered to the newsroom at 401 N. Broadway. For further information, please contact Gazette opinion editor Pat Bellinghausen at 657-1303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.