PulseOnPolitics: June 18
Meet the candidates
Jackson Hole, Wyoming – This week begins The Planet’s political coverage for 2014. Several races at the city, county and state level could determine the direction of the body politic for the next two to four years.
After a 12-year stranglehold on the mayoral seat, Mark Barron opened the door to change when he announced six months ago he would not run again. PR queen Sara Flitner was first to fill the void in voters’ minds. She jumped into the race a few weeks later and has campaigned hard early.
If Flitner wants to wear the town crown she will need to fend off challenges from former planning commissioner Geneva Chong, who will have to explain to voters why she vacated her seat before her term was up in 2010. Mark Nowlin, 67, is probably the next strongest candidate for mayor after Flitner. He is also a former planning commissioner and held down a term on the council as well. Stephen MacDonald is the field’s long shot. He has previously held no office.
The top two vote getters in August will move on to the general.
Interest in the non-partisan race for town council is scant. Both Don Frank – tapped to replace Turley when she bolted for the county – and Bob Lenz filed for reelection. John Stennis, who is currently serving on the planning commission, will challenge them.
It looks like the incumbents’ seats to lose unless Stennis goes on the offensive and chooses Frank or Lenz to attack. Only Frank’s unexplainably staunch opposition to a proposed cell tower at Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church in the Indian Trails subdivision, where Frank lives, tarnishes his record. Lenz is a fan of business owners, roomy sidewalks and shorter buildings.
All three candidates will move on after the primary. A write-in could be a possibility here. At least 25 votes would have to be written in on primary ballots and that person would have to agree to run in the general to have his or her name appear on the ballot.
BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
Then race for the Board of County Commissioners will be hotly contested. The crowded field includes nine hopefuls for three open seats. The campaign will be fiercest in the primary, when notable Republicans will slug it out to move on in November.
Incumbent Paul Vogelheim will be tough to unseat. The Republican crushed the field in 2010 with 25 percent of the vote, 1,050 votes better than the nearest candidate, Hank Phibbs. Paul Perry stands a good chance of regaining his seat on the board. He was narrowly edged out by Barbara Allen in 2012 despite beating her in the primary.
Mark Obringer deserves a strong look. The well-liked politician served 16 years on the Town Council before bowing out in the 2012 primary. Reynolds Pomeroy could be the field’s wildcard. It will be interesting to see how much of an issue the real estate agent chooses to make of the town’s lax enforcement of short-term rental ordinances. Pomeroy’s Clear Creek Group stands to lose mightily should town officials crack down on VRBOs operating in grey areas. Pomeroy served on the county planning commission through the early 90s.
The last place candidate will be booted from the island after the primary.
On the Democratic ticket, incumbents Hank Phibbs and Ben Ellis will both seek another term. They finished second and third behind Vogelheim in 2010, securing seats on the board. Mark Newcomb and Smokey Rhea will slug it out on the bubble on August 19. Newcomb is finishing up six years on the county planning commission. Rhea has been a precinct committeewoman for several years but has not held office in the county. Again, only three of the four will move on to the general after the primary.
After bringing up the rear in the 2010 race for county commissioner, Scott Anderson is back in the fray as an independent. Without party affiliation, Anderson will need to garner at least 217 valid signatures by August 25, or two percent of the total votes cast in the U.S. House race in the last election, according to state statute. The longtime Republican and former town councilman could mine important votes from both parties in the general and avoid the threat of an early exit in the primary.
Representatives Ruth Ann Petroff and Marti Halverson should have an easy road to office. Petroff has no challengers while Halverson will have to dump Democrat Natalia Macker of Hoback Junction.
Keith Gingery’s surprise departure opens the door for former county board chair Andy Schwartz, a Democrat, and a pair of well-known Republican candidates – Wally Ulrich and Jim Darwiche. Ulrich served a short term as state geologist in 2010. He also has chaired the Republican Party at the county and state level. Darwiche is a one-time county commissioner who made a failed bid at Pete Jorgensen’s House District 16 seat in 2006.