Johnson County charter commission to decide Nov. 7 about recommending partisan elections

The Johnson County Charter Commission agreed Monday to vote Nov. 7 on a proposed amendment for a return to partisan elections.

County voters approved the switch to nonpartisan elections of county officials in the 2000 election.

A 25-member commission meets every 10 years and makes ballot recommendations for the next election, in this case 2012. The meeting Monday was the commission’s second this month.

The commission heard reports on several proposed charter amendments Monday, including partisan elections, a divisive issue. Another issue involving partisanship — disclosure of party affiliation on County Commission ballots — was axed at an earlier meeting.

At its Oct. 3 meeting, the commission divided into groups to further explore the proposals.

Commissioner Clay Barker said Monday that county officials should be able to have the support political parties provide. He said going back to partisan elections would make it easier to track campaign donations.

Commissioner Connie Shidler took issue with the amendment, saying that partisan elections might prevent a race between two of the best candidates and might make it more difficult for some people to enter the arena.

“In order to get more women involved, you have to give them an opportunity to participate,” she added. “I think the nonpartisan format does that.”

Another report that sparked discussion involved the appointment of replacements for departing Johnson County commissioners.

Commissioner Jim O’Connell proposed the amendment, which called for at least one public hearing to take place before appointing a replacement for a departing county commissioner.

O’Connell and Mission Hills Mayor Rick Boeshaar, also on the charter commission, suggested allowing the public to nominate replacement commissioners from the floor of such public hearings.

Some other commissioners took issue with nominations being able to come from the public meeting, saying there should be a deadline for nominations so the public knows all the potential candidates before the hearing.

There was no motion to vote on the issue at the next meeting.