Ghosts of 2015 election haunt this year’s race

It was a bit shocking to interview both these guys this week.

Mt. Pleasant’s two city commissioners whose terms expire this year this week confirmed that they will not run for re-election.
Jim Holton, who has served for almost a decade including terms as mayor, and Mike Verleger, who is finishing his first term in office, gave different reasons for their decisions.

Holton (disclaimer: I’m dude’s gardener) has been talking for months like he is finished with the commission, so that’s not really surprising. What’s surprising is that the filing period runs from late June to late July, which means they didn’t even bother trying to gaffle any advantage out of putting off the announcement until replacements could either be recruited or opponents scared off.

Although the city commission is non-partisan, every commissioner leans in some direction and Holton and Verleger are the commission’s conservative wing. Tony Kulick usually leans left politically, but he’ll break with the commission’s liberal majority and side with them. So looming large over this is the 2015 election, which swept a clear liberal majority into power.

That year, the local Democratic Party got behind a slate of candidates topped by Allison Quast-Lents. The entire thing was swept into office. A post-mortem on turnout and voting trends suggests that the Demcratic GOTV effort and money spent probably didn’t make a massive difference. Probably more effective was that Quast-Lents tied her candidacy to Lori Gillis and Nick Madaj. People who were going to the polls to vote for her — and she’d lost to Holton and Verleger the previous year — knew that she supported the other two. In a Democratic town, that was probably enough.

Now with the commission’s two conservatives announcing so early that they won’t run for re-election, that sweep guarantees a liberal majority for at least the next year no matter what. But, if the Dems could take one or two of these seats, it means a supermajority and with an incumbent in every cycle a persistent majority, too.

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