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Lebanon mayoral race begins Friday
Apr 20, 2005 12:00 am
APRIL 19, 2005
With city leaders seemingly poised to approve a new plan to realign election dates, the races to fill Lebanon's mayoral post and three seats on the Lebanon City Council will begin in earnest Friday.
In recent weeks, as state lawmakers wrestled with the initial proposal – which included controversial term extensions – to realign Lebanon elections with gubernatorial and presidential contests, the fate of this year's election remained in question.
However, a new plan to realign city elections will likely be approved by Councilors today, according to Ward 6 Councilor Kathy Warmath, and, as a result, clear the way for an Oct. 27 election date.
In preparation for the coming elections, Wilson County Assistant Administrator of Elections Martha Ann Sutherland said the county election office has begun preparing candidate petition forms, which will be available starting Friday.
At least two sitting members of city government confirmed Monday they intend to enter the mayor's race – incumbent Lebanon Mayor Don Fox and Ward 3 Lebanon City Councilor William Farmer.
"I definitely intend to run for re-election because we're not finished," Fox said. "We still have a bypass to finish. We still have an events center to pursue. We have more big-box retailers that have been dealing with me directly – a lot of commercial developers have been dealing with me directly, and it's not time for me to leave office."
At times one of Fox's chief adversaries in city government, Farmer, a former city attorney who served under Fox in the 1990s, said he also has plans to seek the mayoral post.
"I'm planning to pick up a petition for the mayor's position … in the not-too-distant future," Farmer said, noting his first step after qualifying would involve raising funds for his campaign.
The Ward 3 Councilor was the sole opponent of the initial realignment plan approved by the Council in November 2004 and contended the move, which would have extended the terms of some city lawmakers by as many as 13 months, removed "the vote of the people" from the political process.
As the plan to be considered by Councilors tonight accomplishes realignment goals without term extensions, Warmath said she remains "hopeful."
Under the proposal, the mayor and representatives of Ward 1, 2 and 5 will run for re-election on Oct. 27. The winners will serve abbreviated terms of three years and one month before the same seats are up for grabs in November 2008, coinciding with the presidential election.
Candidates from Wards 3, 4 and 6 will be decided by voters in October 2007. The abbreviated terms will see those seats open again in November 2010 along with that of governor.
Others whose names have circulated along with Fox and Farmer as likely mayoral candidates remained on the fence Monday, including Ward 5 Councilor Jim Mills, who last year formed an "exploratory committee" to research a possible mayoral bid.
In 2004, according to disclosure statements on file at the Wilson County Election Commission, Mills collected $3,000 in contributions as he eyed the mayor's race. The funds were added to his personal campaign coffers between March and May of 2004. The Ward 5 representative received a $1,000 donation from Ken and Mallory Howell, $1,000 from Dale and Barbara Nunnery and $1,000 from Terry Stafford, all of Lebanon.
And while Mills had initially hinted a mayoral campaign was in his future, he said Monday he is still undecided but is "leaning toward" a re-election bid for his seat on the Lebanon City Council.
Likewise, Lebanon attorney Haywood Barry, a former Wilson County General Sessions Court judge, said although he is rumored to be interested in the mayor's seat, his decision remains "unmade."
"I wouldn't rule anything out, of course, but … I have had a lot of people call me who think that I would make a good mayor, and I think so, too," Barry said. " … One problem is always whether you've got enough money to run. I'm thinking this one could take a lot of money with everything that's been going on. It could get up into the $50,000 to $60,000 bracket pretty quick."
As of January, Farmer's campaign coffers stood at just over $2,600, and Fox's at nearly $4,800. Farmer spent more than $3,000 from his campaign fund to distribute a direct mail piece reaffirming his opposition to the initial plan for realignment, financial disclosures revealed.
Staff Writer Brian Harville can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 16 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.