Tuesday's Billings Primary Election winnowed the City Council candidate field to 10 who will vie for council seats in the Nov. 5 General Election.
Now that the votes have been counted, let's first thank the 38% of registered voters who participated in the nonpartisan election to select the November competitors. That's a typical primary-with-no-mayoral-contest turnout, but a dismal demonstration of civic engagement with 62% not voting.
Thanks also to all the candidates who ran active, positive campaigns. The candidates who filed this year include more young adults, more women and more racial diversity than we have ever seen on our City Council. We encourage those who didn't land in the top two Tuesday to stay engaged with local government, perhaps as volunteers on city advisory boards or in future council elections.
Congratulations to the primary winners. We look forward to get better acquainted with each of you.
There's not a lot of time to rest on their primary victories. General Election ballots will be mailed out on Oct. 18 — five weeks from tomorrow. Ballots will be mailed to all voters in the city who are registered as of Oct. 7. Ballots must be returned by Nov. 5.
For eligible city residents who aren't yet registered, absentee ballots will be available from the Yellowstone County Elections Office on the first floor of the county courthouse starting Oct. 7.
At least four new members will join the 11-member City Council in January. Roy Neese is the only incumbent seeking election, having been appointed to finish a term for Ward 2. City Council members are elected on a nonpartisan basis.
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Here's the General Election line up:
- In Ward 1, Kendra Shaw and John Armstrong, who polled first and second in a field of three.
- In Ward 2, Neese and Randy Heinz, highest voter-getters among four candidates.
- In Ward 3, Danny Choriki and Aldo Rowe, who were not on a primary ballot because there were only two candidates.
- In Ward 4, Pam Purinton and Carmelita Dominguez, who topped a field of six.
- In Ward 5, Mike Boyett and Dennis Ulvestad, the top two of five candidates.
One way to learn more about these candidates is to search The Billings Gazette archives online. Simply search by candidate name at billingsgazette.com to find news articles and guest opinions by these candidates.
The five people elected on Nov. 5 will serve four-year terms that will require them to make many difficult and complex decisions about public safety, taxes and other policies that affect our lives in Montana's largest city every day. Voters must make careful choices for these important leadership offices.
In Yellowstone County, the Tuesday election brought good news for Shepherd Public Schools. Voters approved an $11.9 million bond issue to renovate and expand K-12 facilities. Voters had turned down a bigger bond proposal earlier this year, so Shepherd students remain in crowded space for a second academic year. One of the school buildings was condemned a year ago. The Shepherd schools also sustained substantial damage from a hailstorm last month. Then the school board voted to terminate the superintendent who had apparently come to work after heavy drinking.
Tuesday's vote of confidence is welcome relief for a small school district striving to properly address the educational needs of its students.