Walton has joined a growing list of Northern Kentucky cities to adopt resolutions opposing Senate and House bills 50, which would effectively eliminate nonpartisan elections in the Commonwealth.
The laws would require local candidates — namely mayors, local legislators, city wards, school board members and soil and water conservation officers — to publicly declare party membership and undertake primary elections, which is a similar process to federal positions.
Republican legislators introduced the bills in January. The Senate bill is sponsored by Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer of Georgetown, whose district includes a portion of Kenton County. The House bill is sponsored by Rep. Matt Lockett of Nicholasville.
School board members, mayors, city legislators and water and soil water conservation officers would all be subject to disclose their political party and participate in local primary elections.
“I don’t really think there is any reason for this to be in local government,” Walton Mayor Gabe Brown told LINK nky in a conversation after the meeting. “We already have the option to make these seats partisan. We see no reason to do so and haven’t been asked by our constituents to do so.”
The City of Walton adopted Resolution 2023-03 Tuesday, which – with proposed language from the Kentucky League of Cities who adamantly oppose the bill – cited four general grievances city officials had with the bills.
First, the resolution describes political party affiliation as inapplicable to voters deciding local elections based on the experience of the mayor and council. The council agreed with the notion that potholes are not partisan.
The resolution then outlines that current Kentucky statutes allow local legislative bodies and boards to opt for partisan elections, giving those with the best insight into the will of their constituents the ability to make the change if it is desired by the voters.
Further, the resolution cites the increase in election costs, candidates would have to fund two elections in a cycle instead of one, something the city believes would be a further deterrent to encourage citizens to run for public office. The resolution considers the passage of SB/HB 50 as a “further hurdle” in attracting qualified candidates to municipal positions.
“It’s incredibly hard to get someone to run for public office,” Brown said. “It’s even harder to get someone to get someone on a board.”
Elsewhere in Boone and Kenton counties, similar resolutions have been passed. Many officials cite not only the added cost to a potential candidate but also the cost and work load to the county clerk’s office that, as far as Brown is concerned, work beyond their capacity already.
“Practically every city in the commonwealth opposes the bills,” Brown said.
Of Kentucky’s 419 cities, only six hold partisan elections.
“If it ain’t broke,” Brown said and predicted that many emails from across the state accompanied his own to Thayer’s office.