Right now, the race for Johnson County Commission chair is Ed Eilert’s to lose.
The incumbent finished first with 27,000 votes in the nonpartisan Aug. 5 primary, and former state Rep. Patricia Lightner was second with 25,000.
It’s also very likely Eilert will pick up most of the votes received by the third-place candidate, Ed Peterson. That’s because Peterson was the most “liberal” of the three, with Eilert in the middle and Lightner over on the right.
Voters can expect Eilert to continue his longtime mantra of talking about balanced budgets and how well the county spends its tax dollars.
Lightner will attack Eilert on specific projects — such as the commission’s decision to buy the old King Louie West building, which is still awaiting a reuse.
However, because the county’s mill levy has not increased for nine straight years, Lightner can’t paint Eilert as a spendthrift politician.
Eilert and Lightner will need to outline their proposals for improving the county.
Most specifically, as we have said for months, county voters in the near future should be given opportunities to invest more public revenues in the award-winning library and parks systems. Both have suffered from recent budget woes. Library hours were cut, for example, and some park land has sat unimproved for years.
Eilert is far more likely than Lightner to ask voters to support strategic plans that the county’s library and parks boards are putting together right now.
In November, Eilert has a chance to win a second term as county chair. He needs to make sure voters know what kind of positive leader he would be over the next four years.