No mayoral candidates in several Iowa races - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

No mayoral candidates in several Iowa races


Many Iowa cities are facing mayoral races with zero candidates. This could be a problem, since Iowa law requires the mayor's seat to be filled or else a city faces disincorporation.

However, this doesn't seem to worry a lot of the small towns.

In a city of just several hundred people, a lot of folks know the mayor. In fact, in a lot of cases, the mayor doesn't even need to put his or her name on the ballot in order to win re-election, time after time.

New Vienna mayor Pat Hermsen was born and raised in the city he now helps govern.

"I love this small town," he said. "Everybody knows you and everybody knows your business, but it's a great place for a family. Nice and simple.

At his business, Pat's Paint and Repair just outside city limits, Hermsen was hard at work Wednesday afternoon.

"It's actually a sign for a bar and restaurant in Dubuque," he said, working on a large piece of metal in his shop.

After the last election, Hermsen came in second but still succeeded the former mayor of 16 years.

"He decided not to run anymore, but in a small town, everybody automatically votes for you anyway," Hermsen said.

Neither his nor the then-current mayor's names were on the ballot, though Hermsen was a city council member at the time.

"It was a pleasant surprise," Hermsen said. "I was honored that people wrote my name in, that they thought I could do this job. And I try to do my best."

14 people wrote Hermsen's name on the ballot.

"I think the former mayor had, like, 18 or 20 votes," Hermsen said. "We don't get a strong vote count in town."

It was enough, however, to choose a mayor.

Dubuque County auditor Denise Dolan said this practice of waiting for the write-in votes is not uncommon.

"There are some towns where, traditionally, people just don't file. You know, they'll find somebody to write in," she said. "There are other towns, like Zwingle, where, in more cases than not, they have more people running than they have slots open."

Of Dubuque County's 17 mayoral elections this year, five of them have no candidates who have filed to run. Those are Balltown, Bankston, New Vienna, Sherrill and Worthington.

Additionally, nobody has filed for any of Balltown's five open city council spots. There are no candidates for Bankston's three council seats. Dyersville is without anybody officially vying for its at-large council member position. Other Dubuque County cities that have council positions without candidates are Graf, three spots; Holy Cross, one; Sherrill, two and Worthington, two.

While write-in votes can fill these otherwise un-sought seats, they can also slow election results.

"We try and put the winners up on our Website and try and get it, you know, disseminated to all the media," Dolan said. "And when we have write-ins, obviously, it's a lot tougher for us to do that. We may not be able to get that out until the next day."

Every year, she said, a number of city council and mayoral races go without names on the ballot.

"Little nuances all the time. We never know quite what to expect," she said.

As for Hermsen's possible second term, he said, "If they want me to do it, continue on being mayor, I'll do it."

His political future is determined, once again, by the write-in vote.

Alan Kemp is the executive director of the Iowa League of Cities. He said a city disincorporates only about once every 10 years, so those write-in votes help fill the legally-required mayor and city council seats throughout the state.

Balancing things out, Kemp said, one city incorporates about every decade as well, keeping Iowa's number of municipalities steady.

In order to maintain a municipality, a city must have a quorum with its city council.

There are about 950 cities in the state, and the majority of them are likely holding mayoral races this year, the Iowa League of Cities said.

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