LaFayette spent 15K on elections

Published 6:27 pm Monday, June 3, 2019

LaFAYETTE — The two elections to place Councilwoman Charlotte Blasingame on the LaFayette City Council in February and March cost the taxpayers of LaFayette more than $15,000.

LaFayette held two elections — one in February and then a runoff in March — with a total price tag of $15,305.70. Blasingame and former LaFayette Mayor and Councilman David Ennis advanced to a runoff after the special election in February, and Blasingame defeated Ennis in March.  Blasingame was sworn in as the District B representative on April 8.

LaFayette City Clerk Louis Davidson said most of the money went to paying employees to work the election, supplying ballots, renting voting machines and placing required advertising in newspapers.

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Blasingame’s seat will be up reelection in August 2020 and qualifying will begin in early July 2020.

Councilman Neal McCurdy said Monday the cost of the elections was high.

“That was a lot of money to spend for that election,” he said. “She should have fallen right into that seat because she was the only one to run against (former Councilman Matthew) Hurst.”

Hurst resigned in June 2018 to take a job in another city.

McCurdy there should have been an appointment in August but at least the residents had a chance to elect who they wanted to represent them.

In August, six candidates expressed interest in the seat, including Blasingame. Ennis and Shannon Hunter, who ran in the special February election, also applied for the job.

At the Aug. 13 council meeting, Mayor Barry Moody narrowed down his selection to Ennis and Blasingame and ultimately decided on Blasingame.

“At the end of the day, the race she ran against Matt (Hurst) is what I heard the most,” Moody said in August. “It was not an individual name. It was, ‘why doesn’t the person who lost the race have the opportunity to do that job?’”

Although Moody made a recommendation, other members of the council felt there should have been more input and public participation.

“To be fair to everybody, I’d say let’s just have an election and let the people speak,” Councilman Tammie Williams said in August.

Shortly afterward, Councilman Michael Ellis made a motion to have an election which passed four to one, with Moody being the only vote against.

Moody said in February that the council made several attempts to avoid an election but couldn’t come to a majority. Each council member was supposed to make a recommendation, and then there was to be a vote to see who would assume the seat, but he was the only one to make a recommendation.

“I made a personal attempt to avoid having an election,” Moody said in February.

On Monday, Councilman Toney Thomas said the mayor and council usually appoints somebody to an open seat if one comes available in the middle of a term, or at least that is the way it has been done in the past. He said the mayor  made a recommendation for the seat but the rest of the council wanted to let the people decide, and he didn’t want to vote against the public making the decision.

“It would have saved the city some money, and we could have done a lot of things with that money if we had not had that election,” he said. “However, that is water under the bridge, and I am ready to move on and do what we can make our city better.”

In February, 141 out of the 340 registered voters cast a ballot. The runoff election in March brought out slightly more voters as 183 people voted.

The Valley Times-News made calls and emailed Moody, Williams and Ellis and for comment on this story but did not hear back.