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OPINION: Post-election results and reflections

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After the election in Athens, we asked our opinion writers for their thoughts on the results of the mayoral and City Council races. Contributing are Charlotte Caldwell, a sophomore journalism major, Katie Nolan, a junior environmental studies major, Maddie Kramer, a junior political science major and Zach Richards, a sophomore education major.

Please note that these views and opinions do not represent those of The New Political.

Charlotte: The biggest shock of the night was City Council candidate Beth Clodfelter’s win. It is a difficult feat to unseat an incumbent. It was specifically shocking that Clodfelter received 23.57% of the vote, which was more than any other candidate running for City Council. It is disheartening that incumbent Pat McGee was unseated, especially because he seemed to be the voice of reason on issues that the City Council faced and brought up important points that no other member considered. Without him, there will probably be no dissenting voice that benefits the percentage of the community who don’t identify with the Democratic Party.

Mayoral candidate Damon Krane and City Council candidates Ellie Hamrick and Chris Monday’s losses were expected, considering their ideas on how to tackle issues seemed a little too broad for the positions they were trying to earn and their biggest talking point was “Operation Slumlord Smackdown.” As I previously stated, the true cause of their losses may have been due to their primarily-college-student voter base, and their low turnout may have caused lower percentages. The rest of the community does not seem to be on board with Socialist ideas yet, but these candidates’ campaigns were a good start for the Socialist Party to try to win in the future.

Krane may have had the most interesting campaign when compared to the other candidates. He was very active on his Facebook page, and his posts mostly included attacks on Mayor Steve Patterson. The most notable attack was his continued rhetoric that Patterson received campaign money from unsavory community figures and that he was the “Republican’s candidate” — as if that was a bad word. This could have been unfavorable and an immediate turn-off to community members, which could have contributed to his loss.

 

Katie: Since the Athens City Council election results, there has been corresponding backlash surrounding the lack of party diversity on the new council. It is true that all three At-Large City Council seats were won by Democrats on Nov. 5, but the individual candidates elected come with hopeful advances for the future of Athens. 

Clodfelter — the only challenger to win a seat on City Council this year — has ambitious ideas that will no doubt prove relevant to a progressive and successful City Council. Her previous work as an environmental advocate and strong engagement in the local community will ensure that she is a successful member of the City Council. Her future ideas focus on direct community engagement as well as prioritizing environmental concerns, including sustainability initiatives as well as safety concerns that every Athenian can potentially benefit from. One of these ideas includes an intimate public forum, in which the people of Athens will be able to express their concerns on a level where City Council members will listen to their stories directly. 

While it is always discouraging to be held to a two-party system that does not allow room for too much variation, there can be hope found in the individuals elected locally. They all may be Democrats by choice, but they all innately hold a strong love for Athens that will help the local community prosper in the coming years. 

Maddie: This local election cycle was different than usual, as there was a challenger for Athens mayor and three challengers for City Council At-Large seats. This created an environment conducive to open forums, debates and discussions around the Athens-area for these candidates.

Another unique aspect of this election cycle was the number of independent candidates. Despite incumbent independent McGee, independent described Democratic Socialist Krane ran for mayor against incumbent Democrat Steve Patterson. Independent socialist Hamrick and independent Monday ran for City Council seats. 

These independent candidates heavily relied on the students’ presence and vote, as they campaigned heavily on landlords — or slumlords, if you’re Krane or Hamrick —  and tenant relations. They drew a line between themselves and those who own properties in Athens, such as incumbent councilmembers Peter Kotses and Sarah Grace. 

While none of these independent candidates secured a victory on Tuesday night, it is important to give them credit for getting students more involved. Hamrick often discussed being a graduate student and struggling to find housing. She is young and made herself seem very relatable to students. 

Representatives from Hamrick and Krane’s campaign also reached out to students, texting them directly. While many students may have seen this as an annoyance, the candidates were getting their names and platforms out to students in the most direct way possible. Krane even used his food truck, displaying campaign material on all sides of the Hot Potato food truck and registering students to vote there. 

Platforms and number of votes received aside, the number of independent candidates resulted in a feeling of need for more students to get out to vote. When there is no opposition, voting sometimes can feel pointless. There was a success for a challenger Clodfelter, however. This is exciting, as even in local elections it can be hard to unseat incumbents. There will also be a new face with new ideas on City Council, which is exciting and important for the city. 

 

Zach: The biggest surprise of the night was the sheer clobbering the independent socialist candidates received, with Krane receiving less than 21% of the vote. Krane has attributed this to low turnout and says that he expects future independent socialist candidates to do better. In this case, he’s probably right, and Athens should expect that one day, a self-described socialist will at least be elected to City Council. 

The mayoral spot may always be out of reach for the socialists, however, as long as student turnout remains low. No one does exit polls of Athens’ elections, but it’s possible Krane may have actually won among college students who voted. However, Patterson probably won overwhelmingly among non-student Athenians. Patterson had the advantage of name recognition and establishment backing, and Krane ran an impressive enough campaign in just getting his name out there.

The other results were what people expected, with most incumbents winning reelection. While it’s sad to see McGee lose, Clodfelter ran a great campaign that allowed her to win the most votes of anyone that election night. At the same time, City Council is now entirely composed of members of the Democratic Party, and it will be interesting to see if any members challenge any major piece of legislation another member proposes.

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