When Mark Kruzan announced on November 18 that he would not seek a fourth term as mayor of Bloomington, he threw the race wide open – at least for who the Democratic nominee will be. Kruzan was likely to coast to re-election, if he had a Republican opponent at all. But despite the long odds, Republicans need to fill the ticket.
First, Republicans need to field an absolute minimum of five candidates for City Council. Only four Republicans ran in 2007 – contesting districts 2, 5 and 6 with one at-large candidate. The best Republicans could possibly hope for in that case is a 5-4 Democratic majority. It was even worse in 2011, when with only three Republican candidates (two at-large plus District 1) the best possible outcome was a 6-3 Democratic majority.
If the Republicans do not even field enough candidates to claim a majority, why even bother at all? What possible motivation do Republican voters have to turn out at the polls when even an unprecedented (and highly improbable) Republican landslide will put Republicans in a 3-6 minority?
But the primary race that Republicans need to contest is the mayor’s office. Yes, this is a heavily Democratic city and there has not been a Republican Mayor since 1971 – two years before I was born. But the party has an obligation to at least give the voters an option to choose someone else. Perhaps if the GOP does not field a candidate for Mayor, the Libertarian Party will field a candidate for Mayor.
Even if someone only files paperwork to run as a write-in candidate and does nothing else, that office must be contested. The voters deserve an opportunity to choose, no matter how lopsided the odds might be. As the second major party, Republicans have a moral obligation to provide that choice.
If Republicans are to be taken seriously as an opposition party within the city, they cannot continue to leave so many races uncontested. If Republicans do not even bother trying to win, the party (at least in the city) will be seen as a joke. That perception will be accurate. The Monroe County Republican Party did an excellent job filling the ballot in the 2014 county elections, even if the election results were depressing.
That should continue in the 2015 city elections. At a minimum, Republicans should do whatever is necessary to at least field nine city council candidates – but the eventual Democratic nominee for mayor should not coast in with 100% of the vote. The people of Bloomington deserve better, and they deserve a choice.