SHERIDAN — Voters had a chance to weigh in on the city council during Tuesday’s primary elections and though nothing was decided — the city council race is nonpartisan so all of the candidates will move on to the general election in November — the results provided a sense of where the race stands and how the public has responded to Mayor Roger Miller’s call for voters to unseat two current council members.
Based on those results, the race is still up in the air.
Miller, in a public letter earlier this month, asked city residents to vote out incumbent councilors Erin Hanke, who is currently council vice president, and Patrick Henderson in favor of council members who would work with him to repeal the charter ordinance that established the city administrator position to oversee the day-to-day operations of city staff and to conduct a public vote on whether the city’s water should be fluoridated.
Both Hanke and Henderson, along with council President Richard Bridger and councilor Alex Lee, who is not seeking re-election, have said they have no interest in addressing those issues further and have pushed the mayor to move on to matters like affordable housing in the community and economic development.
Which direction council moves going forward, Miller said, will be determined by the voters in November.
“If the public wants a strong mayor, they need to vote for those candidates who are willing to repeal Charter Ordinance 2158,” Miller said.
Miller said he was happy to see a strong voter turnout and that the candidates he endorsed are contenders to win their races.
Miller has said repeatedly, and reiterated Wednesday, that if Hanke and Henderson are re-elected he is confident that city council will function productively but he would take it as a signal from voters to stop pursuing the two issues.
“We’ve worked on hundreds of issues already in the past year,” Miller said. “…It’s OK for us to disagree from time-to-time on critical points.”
There are five candidates, including Hanke, running for three open four-year term seats on council, and Henderson is facing one challenger for his unexpired two-year term seat.
Vixie Miller separated herself from the pack with 1,904 votes, but only a narrow margin separated the three candidates who finished below Miller. Jacob Martin won the second-most votes with 1,682, Aaron Linden finished third with 1,672 and Hanke finished fourth with 1,661. Clint Beaver was not far off either, finishing fifth with 1,538 votes.
Of those candidates, the mayor endorsed Vixie Miller, Linden and Beaver.
Hanke said she chose to delay her campaign until after the primary because all of the city council candidates would advance regardless of the outcome; her pre-primary campaign finance report confirmed she had no campaign budget as of Aug. 14.
The results were somewhat distorted, however, by the 1,283 votes cast for David Lee; Lee announced his withdrawal from the race earlier this month but did not formally withdraw from the ballot before the primary.
Whether the voters who chose Lee were supporting Miller’s call to vote out Hanke or were opposed to it was also unclear. Lee was one of four candidates Miller endorsed in his public letter earlier this month, but Lee was also critical of the mayor’s behavior and goals in his resignation letter.
Henderson also appears to be in a tight race after Tuesday’s primary, which showed he had a narrow lead with 2,132 votes compared to challenger Victoria Hernandez’s 1,904. Henderson was happy to see so many candidates running for city council and again emphasized his focus on issues other than those highlighted by the mayor.
“Our citizens want the council to provide great services to the community while being responsible to the tax payers with their hard-earned money,” Henderson wrote in an e-mail. “Our citizens expect council to focus on creating great job opportunities for our citizens and youth. We need to protect our citizens (especially our youth and senior citizens). The community wants council to provide superior community livability and preserve the characteristics of this community that we all love.”
Hernandez also said she was encouraged by Tuesday’s results
“I’m excited I got the votes I did,” Hernandez said. “…[The race] is still super close, so I’m not discouraged at all.”
According to pre-primary campaign finance reports, Hernandez has raised the most money from contributions among council candidates with $206. She said she has done some campaigning so far and purchased yard signs and sent out mailers but will try to increase her outreach in coming months.
“I’m excited with the results and I’m definitely going to keep trying,” Hernandez said.
The general election will take pace Nov. 6, with early voting starting Sept. 21.