by William Skink
Missoula’s City Council is often presented as a homogeneous group of rubber-stampers dutifully voting for the Mayor’s agenda. This is obviously an oversimplification, but unless deviations and disagreements become public, those of us on the outside of the municipal sausage factory will assume everyone but Jesse Ramos is basically on the same page regarding most issues.
Apparently not everyone is on the same page with regards to primaries. Julie Armstrong made it clear that she does not approve of Mayor Engen’s recent push to have costly primaries and she did something about it by purposefully disqualifying herself for a run at reelection.
Before getting to Armstrong’s explanation let’s revisit why Engen is adamant to have primaries:
While the city will conduct a primary to ensure that only two candidates appear on this November’s ballot, it has permitted more than two candidates on the ballot in the past.
In the 2015 general election, three candidates appeared on the ballot in Ward 6. In 2017, Ward 3 saw three candidates on the ballot, while Ward 4 saw four candidates.
That latter election saw two left-leaning candidates split each other’s vote, essentially handing the seat to right-leaning council member Ramos, who also ran a strong campaign.
I think it’s obvious why Engen is choosing to burden taxpayers with the cost of unnecessary primaries. The timing is particularly disgusting, considering City Council is just starting its 6 weeks of budget reviews.
With all this context in mind, here is Julie Armstrong’s reasoning for stopping payment on the check to trigger her disqualification. The comment was originally made on Facebook:
“When I found out that the mayor was intent on running a primary, I went to withdraw from the race because we have two good candidates there now. We (the City Council) voted on the primary on the same exact day that was the last day to withdraw from a primary, June 17th, making it impossible for me to withdraw. The only way to withdraw from a primary is to be disqualified, and there’s only three ways to be disqualified, not paying your fees, which I put a stop pay on my check: or moving out of your ward or no longer having a valid voter registration.
“Trust me folks I have the money to pay my fees that wasn’t the issue. I am glad however that there will not be a primary in Ward 5, as we will not be wasting $10,000 and having our candidates spend more of their own money to campaign. I feel confident that our citizens and Ward 5 can make up their minds in one election, and don’t need two.”
Julie Armstrong was a good councilperson, but thanks to the Mayor’s political shenanigans, she is deciding to throw in the towel. That is unfortunate.
I hope people in Missoula are paying attention, and I REALLY hope someone provides a substantive challenge to Sailor Engen when he is up for reelection in 2 years.