Contested races trigger better government

An incredible number of Cortland residents – 14 – applied recently to fill an unexpired council seat created when Councilman James Woofter moved into his new role as Cortland mayor this month.

Of course we were pleased to see this double-digit number of residents expressing interest in being a public servant, but this sudden interest in holding public office has us scratching our heads, especially given the fact that the two most recent Cortland city council races went uncontested.

According to the Trumbull County Board of Elections, three candidates – James Edwards, Patti Keller and Scott Rowley – vied for three seats in the November election. The previous Cortland council race, November 2013, had four candidates – James Woofter, Dennis Linville, Deidre Petrosky and Kevin Piros – vying for four seats.

Still, the interest shown by these 14 candidates gives us optimism.

So does the lineup for the upcoming March primary.

This year, Democratic voters could see up to seven contested races on their Trumbull County-wide ballots. Even more uplifting is the fact that in four of those races – the 32nd District of the Ohio Senate; both the 64th and 14th District seats of the Ohio House; and the 32nd District State Central Committeeman – Republican voters also will have a choice. That’s a step in the right direction where Mahoning Valley Republican voters often see no contested primaries.

Once those races are whittled down, the November ballot looks to see even more contested races, including the possibility of competitions for Trumbull County commissioner, clerk of courts, recorder, treasurer, prosecutor and 11th District Court of Appeals judge.

We consistently argue that voters always should have a choice at the polls, whether it’s a primary race for a party nomination or a general election in November. This is America, the nation with freedoms that are only dreamed of by many others around the world. The lack of interest that often exists in our political system can be disheartening.

Great value comes in contested races. Debates over issues and beliefs force candidates to speak openly. It challenges candidates to answer the tough questions and often triggers discussion of new ideas. Simply put, competition lends itself to better government.