And they’re off.
The gates open today in local races. People interested in running for, or keeping, a seat on area school boards and city councils can file for a place on the ballot starting today.
The election is Saturday, May 7. Early voting begins April 25 and ends May 3.
In Denton, city voters likely will see a full ballot in May. All the at-large seats are up for election, including the mayor’s seat and two spots — Place 5 and Place 6 — on the City Council. Unlike district races (which are held in opposite years), city voters may cast a ballot in all three at-large races.
Place 5 council member Dalton Gregory and Place 6 council member Greg Johnson have maintained campaign war chests since their last election and are expected to run again. In addition, Mayor Chris Watts recently reopened his campaign finance network by appointing Bette Sherman as his treasurer.
All three would be running for their second two-year term, though Gregory previously served three terms as a district-level council member.
Other residents appear to be lining up to challenge the incumbents. For Place 5, Will Wooten has appointed Blake Meyer as campaign treasurer. A graduate student in information technology and decision sciences, Wooten is a well-known climate change activist.
Two other possible challengers chose to announce their interest in running during a political meeting at Robson Ranch retirement community late last year. Sara Bagheri, an attorney, announced her interest in running for Place 6, and Michael Cheves, a business consultant, announced his interest in running for Place 5. But neither has filed any campaign paperwork with the city secretary’s office yet.
This year, heavy voter turnout at Robson Ranch could have its biggest impact yet on Denton elections. In 2013, Watts had broad support from Robson voters when he was first elected mayor. He previously served three terms as a district council member representing western Denton, including Robson Ranch. And last year, in the district races, Robson resident Kathleen Wazny sailed past her opponent (from northern Denton) to represent District 3.
At least one recall race will be on the ballot. A citizen petition requesting the recall of District 4 council member Joey Hawkins was deemed sufficient. Hawkins did not resign, which means the City Council is expected to order the recall election soon.
If District 4 voters agree to recall Hawkins, that seat likely would remain vacant until a special election in November to fill it. Much of southern Denton is represented by District 4.
Activists said they are continuing to work on another recall petition in District 1; however, there are only a few more weeks before such a petition would arrive too late for the May ballot.
The city charter does not allow signatures on a recall petition to be more than 45 days old, and it dictates the time frame for a petition to be evaluated. Feb. 19 is the last day a city can order a special measure, such as a recall election, for the May ballot.
The City Council’s vote last summer to repeal a citizens ban on hydraulic fracturing is driving recall efforts. However, activists list other grievances on the petitions against the council members, including lack of support for ethics reforms and excessive tax incentives.
The seats of three Denton school board members are also up for election this May. They are Place 3, Dr. Glenna Harris; Place 4, Mia Price; and Place 5, Charles Stafford.
Ballots by mail
Residents who have a disability or are older than 65 may apply to receive all their ballots by mail. A new state law provides for the option, ostensibly to make voting easier for those who have a hard time getting to the polls.
Under the option, voters need apply only once, preferably at the beginning of the year, to receive their ballots for the primary election in March, the May and November elections, as well as any runoff ballots, by mail.
Others voters who require a ballot by mail to participate in the May 7 election, such as those who know they will be out of state during that time, have until April 26 to apply for a ballot by mail.
More information on voting by mail is available on the Denton County Elections Administration website at www.votedenton.com/early-voting-by-mail-absentee.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.