Election season kicks off
Town Council race, Jackson statehouse seat will be top draws heading into August primary.
By Benjamin Graham and Kevin Huelsmann, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
June 6, 2012
With the filing period for town, county and state elections closed, the political maneuvering of this summer’s election season is just beginning.
The biggest draw this year is the nine-person race for two spots on the Jackson Town Council, which could turn into a heated battle over how to implement a new land-use plan that calls on the town to absorb density stripped from rural parts of the county.
Several state offices also could see a shake-up this year.
Freshman Rep. Ruth Ann Petroff, R-Jackson, will have to fend off a primary challenger, and Wilson Democrat Jim Roscoe will have to launch a write-in campaign or run as an independent if he decides to seek another term in the state House.
In the next several months, candidates will have to carve out their spot in the race, raise money and hit the pavement.
While the field for the two council seats will be pared down after the Aug. 21 primary election, most candidates will have to fight all the way to the general election in November. The number of candidates grew to nine with the addition of two last-day entries: Emy diGrappa and Steve Harrington. They will compete with Kelly Egan, Jim Genzer, Hailey Morton, Phillip Cameron and Jim Stanford and incumbents Mark Obringer and Greg Miles.
Mayor Mark Barron, who will be seeking his sixth term, was the lone candidate to file for the mayoral race. He could face competition, as he has in the past, if someone mounts a write-in campaign.
Debates this summer among candidates will be about the best ways to implement the comprehensive plan and how to manage the town’s tight budget. Some candidates have already marked out their positions.
The land-use plan, approved May 8, calls for 60 percent of countywide development to be directed to already developed areas, especially in town. Open spaces would be preserved by downzoning parts of the county or providing incentives to landowners who give up development rights.
Despite the variety of fresh political faces, young and old, the challengers may have difficulty getting the incumbents out of their seats.
Obringer has served four terms of four years each on the Jackson Town Council. He was on the planning commission when the last land-use plan was approved in 1994.
Miles earned the most votes in the 2008 election that won him his seat on the council.
Another seat could become available if Councilor Melissa Turley is elected as a county commissioner. The council would pick her successor.
Barron unchallenged so far
Barron could face a challenger in the general elections if a write-in candidate garners 25 or more votes. The top vote-getter with more than 25 would have the option of joining the mayoral race.
The comprehensive plan also is looming large over the county commission race. Four candidates filed.
Republican commissioner Paul Perry will be running to retain his seat on the commission for the first time. He was appointed about a year and a half ago to replace Leland Christensen, who was elected to the state Senate.
Perry will be running against Turley, town Planning Commissioner Barbara Allen and Claire Fuller, who narrowly missed the cut in 2008 for a spot on the commission.
Allen, a Republican, is the only planning commissioner who voted against the Jackson/Teton County Comprehensive Plan. She said she wants to make sure the land-use plan isn’t carried out by downzoning the county, which she said doesn’t equate to permanent conservation.
Two Democrats eye council
Fuller, who recently resigned from a position with the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, also has stressed the need for county officials to develop strong tools to permanently protect open space and wildlife habitat. Fuller is a Democrat.
Turley, also a Democrat, is trying to make the jump from town office to a county post. She said her experience on the council will help provide new perspective to county issues.
Commissioner Andy Schwartz, a Democrat who holds the other seat up for election on the commission, bowed out of the race in April. After serving for roughly two decades, Schwartz said he wanted to take a break from county government.
In state races, Petroff faces Jacksonite Bob Biolchini in the primary race for the House District 16 GOP nomination. Biolchini hasn’t returned numerous calls and emails seeking comments.
Petroff wants to help diversify the state economy by offering incentives and tax breaks to attract new companies to the state. She also said she wants to promote the use of natural gas through low-interest loan and grant programs.
In House District 22, Republican Marti Halverson is the lone candidate on the ballot. Roscoe, who holds the seat, filed an application to run for office with an incorrect address. State election officials were unable to reach the Wilson Democrat to fix the mistake because he was on Grand Canyon river trip.
Roscoe could launch a write-in campaign or file as an independent candidate. He is expected to be back in cell- phone range next week.
Rep. Keith Gingery, R-Jackson, is running unopposed in House District 23. Sen. Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, also is the lone candidate in Senate District 16.