Could a mayor be elected in Lee’s Summit having gained 2,000 or fewer votes? It’s entirely possible.
Next April, Lee’s Summit voters could find themselves making a four-, five- or even six-way decision for mayor. Since we have no primary procedure in place (our neighbors in Independence are the only nearby municipality to hold such elections) we could see a lengthy ballot when it comes to picking our city’s leader for the next four years.
Approximately 1/30th of the city’s eligible voters could decide the direction and leadership style of our next mayor. Of course, we know that of the 60,000-plus registered voters in Lee’s Summit – and this is not unlike any other city around us, regardless of size — only a small percentage come out to vote. Some elections it’s upward of 15 percent. Others are less than 10 percent.
The April 2018 election will be driven by three substantial races: mayoral, council and possible school board candidates on the ballot. Given that the school board just saw a race with 11 candidates in the mix, it may be safe to assume this April’s R-7 School Board election may be met with similar interest, especially among those that garnered thousands of votes but were not elected.
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Conversely, those 1,500 to 2,500 votes could be all that a mayoral candidate needs to land the weighty job in Lee’s Summit, if we see a ballot of five, six or more.
Take 2010 into account: that election year, current Mayor Randy Rhoads unseated incumbent Karen Messerli and fringe opponent Robert Dye with more than 5,800 of the 11,000 votes cast. And that’s not far off from the nearly 5,500 votes Rhoads received when he ran unopposed for re-election in 2014.
During those years, we had some contested council races, but quite often very little happening with school board. Either way, the mayor race often drives the electorate to the polls, save perhaps a controversial bond issue.
To guesstimate or extrapolate future election results is surely an inexact science.
However, we can look at this very brief history in election time in Lee’s Summit and note that if, say, vote totals were to jump as high as 15,000 for a mayoral race, then a top to bottom split from five candidates could yield a mayor with just 3,500 votes. And that total tumbles when you add a sixth or seventh candidate.
What ultimately drives a large contingent of candidates for this position? Perhaps it is similar to what drove the lengthy school board candidate ballot: increased attention on the position and the decisions surrounding that governing body.
And just like school board, we could volley from one extreme to the other, the famine of no candidates other than the incumbent for mayor to the feast of more than a handful of hopefuls ready to take the reins of a seat that has new charter changes to deal with, economic development opportunities ahead, city staff navigation and a whole lot of differing personalities – and 93,000 residents – to deal with.
It’s certainly not a job to envy, but it is one that requires monumental patience, leadership and poise. Surely, even if we find ourselves among a flock of candidates, we will – regardless of vote counts – find that type of leader.
Lee’s Summit resident John Beaudoin writes about city and civic issues, people and personalities around town. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.