One week remains in the candidate filing period for local elections — and for the first time in eight years, it appears Killeen will have an election in all four of its district races.
With the filing Monday of Debbie Nash-King for the District 2 seat held by Richard “Dick” Young, each of the city’s incumbents has at least one challenger heading into the May 6 election.
That’s a positive development for the city, where residents’ involvement grew dramatically during last summer’s contentious budget process.
It’s also a welcome contrast to recent district elections, which are held in odd-numbered years.
Two years ago, only two district races were contested, so elections were canceled for Districts 2 and 4. In district elections, only residents living within a certain district are allowed to cast votes for candidates seeking to represent that district — meaning if the election is canceled, residents in that district are denied an opportunity to vote.
In 2013, the situation was even more disappointing for many Killeen voters, who saw elections canceled in Districts 1, 2 and 4 because candidates in those districts were unopposed.
The scenario was identical to the 2011 municipal election, when incumbents in Districts 1, 2 and 4 failed to draw opponents. Six months later, however, two of those three incumbents were recalled in a citywide election, and the third incumbent resigned his seat prior to the recall vote.
This year, incumbent council members are trying to put the city’s financial house back in order after last year’s budget process — in which members were forced to reconcile a projected multimillion-dollar shortfall in the 2017 budget.
Through cutbacks and deferred spending, the council managed to bridge much of the gap, while keeping the city’s reserves largely intact.
But the road to the final budget was a bumpy one, with the former interim city manager initially proposing a plan that drew down the city’s reserve fund by more than $7 million while increasing spending by nearly 10 percent.
Residents responded by packing two city budget hearings, demanding fiscal accountability — and also demanding a forensic audit to determine what happened to cause the shortfall.
For their parts, the council incumbents are to be commended for resolving last year’s financial crisis and getting an early start on next year’s budget — though to date, they have made little headway moving forward on a forensic audit. Still, they deserve credit for committing themselves to another two-year term in which to serve the city, if the voters will have them.
But equally deserving of credit are the Killeen residents who have stepped up to challenge the four council incumbents. By joining the race, these candidates have ensured that the upcoming campaign will offer a broader discourse of opinions and ideas — and that is the foundation of a representative democracy.
Sadly, the same cannot be said of the Killeen school board election, to date.
With only five days remaining in the filing period, only one candidate had filed for a spot on the ballot. This is disappointing, especially when compared with last year’s election, in which all three incumbents up for re-election filed for ballot spots and were challenged for their seats.
As of Friday afternoon, neither of the two Killeen ISD board incumbents whose terms are expiring had filed for re-election. One member, board President Terry Delano, told the Herald he would not run; the other, Trustee Marvin Rainwater, had yet to decide.
It’s understandable that board members might be hesitant to commit to another three-year term. But by filing at the last minute, or belatedly deciding not to file, they increase the likelihood of a canceled election.
Those who have filed deserve our thanks for committing to public service, and certainly no one should be compelled to run for office.
But whenever our local elections lack enough candidates to provide the voters a voice, our system of democracy is diminished — and that’s unfortunate.