There’s a question that’s been asked in many different forms across many years: What happens if they hold an election and no one runs for office?
Residents of communities on both sides of the Ohio River learned they likely will be facing just that situation after filing deadlines for this spring’s primary elections passed in Ohio and West Virginia.
This year’s elections do not carry the pizazz that comes with a presidential race. But what they lack in glamour they make up for in importance. They are the true grassroots votes, the opportunities for residents of communities large and small to fill those positions that have the greatest impact on their daily lives.
Sadly, few area residents have chosen to seek those posts, and those who have decided to run in some cases face no challenger in the primary election and will have no opponent in the general election — in essence winning a seat simply by being the only candidate to file for an office.
In Steubenville, for instance, incumbent 4th Ward Councilman Scott Dressel will face off May 4 against Royal Mayo for the Democratic nomination. While independent candidates can file up until May 3, since no Republican has filed, it’s likely that either Dressel or Mayo will advance to the Nov. 2 general election and be unopposed. And that means the winner of the primary likely will earn the seat.
In the 6th Ward, only Republican Mike Hernon filed for the seat being vacated by Bob Villamagna, and only incumbent Republican Jerry Barilla filed for the mayor’s seat. And in the 2nd Ward, incumbent Democrat Craig Petrella is unopposed in the primary, as is Republican Tracy McManamon.
At least there are a few candidates in Steubenville — in Mingo Junction, no one filed for the available council seats or treasurer. In Belmont County, meanwhile, there are no issues on the primary ballot and only one contested race for a seat on Martins Ferry City Council.
There are no candidates or issues to place on primary ballots in Harrison and Monroe counties.
We wonder, then, why is it that so few people seek office?
Is it a matter of time? To do the job right, serving on council requires a great investment of time with very little financial return.
How about a lack of interest? It’s possible, but visit any restaurant or coffee shop and you’re sure to find a group whose members think they have all of the answers. They just aren’t willing to run for office.
Maybe it’s a disgust with the process in general. It’s true that politics has gotten extremely nasty — even at the most basic local level, as St. Clairsville Mayor Kathryn Thalman learned recently when she found herself in hot water after sharing a post on Facebook.
Whatever the reason, we thank those who have chosen to run for office, and hope others will step forward to become the leaders our communities need and deserve.