One more time — do we really need a primary?

By John Peters

October 10, 2013

On Tuesday Mount Airy voters whittled the field of candidates vying for the South Ward Board of Commissioners seat to two candidates.

Incumbent Steve Yokeley easily outdistanced his opponents, Jimmy D. Mitchell and Jerry Byrd, in the voting. Yokeley garnered 304 votes, compared to 34 for Mitchell and 19 for Byrd.

All three of these individuals should be commended for their candidacy. Regardless of the votes they received, or their position on various challenges facing the city, all three saw something they wanted to address through the city commission. Many folks say there are things they would like to change, but these three individuals took positive steps to address their areas of concern, putting themselves out there and waging campaigns for public office.

Now that the primary is over and the actual election looms, there are a few conclusions we believe can be reasonably drawn about the city.

First, we believe city residents are by-and-large pleased with the job the mayor and city commissioners are doing. No one filed to oppose Mayor Deborah Cochran nor North Ward Commissioner Jon Cawley in the election, and Yokeley’s vote totals from Tuesday’s primary speak for themselves — he received 85 percent of the votes cast in a three-way race.

Second, the voting public is lazy. That’s not exactly a revelation, but this goes to new lows regarding just how few people care enough to cast a ballot — only 5.33 percent of the city’s registered voters took part in the election. Even if one is satisfied with those in office, we would expect those people to show that affirmation with a vote.

Third, not to beat a dead horse, but we hope the city will revisit the idea of holding primaries when there are more than two candidates seeking a single seat.

While we don’t yet know the full cost of this primary, if such past run-offs are any indication we suspect this cost around $10,000 to stage. That’s ten grand all so 357 people could vote. There’s simply no justification for holding a so-called primary just so the field can be whittled to two candidates for a final election.

One of the hallmarks of the present make-up of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners is its generally conservative approach to finances, trying to save money wherever it can for the taxpayers who pay these bills. That makes the board’s decision to continue with this questionable practice all the more puzzling.