Contested Elections: Good For Communities…

Election season has begun to heat up across the western communities. Candidates have just a few short weeks to declare their candidacies for the Tuesday, March 11 municipal elections.

There are elections scheduled in Wellington, Royal Palm Beach and Loxahatchee Groves. However, right now, less than half the races that could be on the ballot have contested elections. Will voters have a full ballot to consider? We’ll know soon enough.

The official qualifying period opens Tuesday, Jan. 28. In Wellington and Royal Palm Beach, the qualifying period ends Tuesday, Feb. 11. In Loxahatchee Groves, the period is a week shorter, ending Tuesday, Feb. 4.

But candidates can declare their intent to run well before the official qualifying period, and already we have begun to see a few contested races emerge.

Royal Palm Beach currently has four candidates in its mayoral race. Two-term incumbent Mayor Matty Mattioli is seeking re-election to his seat and faces challenges from former Councilwoman Martha Webster, community activist Felicia Matula and businesswoman Laurel Bennett.

Seats 1 and 3, held by Vice Mayor Jeff Hmara and Councilman Richard Valuntas respectively, are also up for grabs, but no challengers had come forward at press time.

There are also two seats available on the Wellington Village Council: Seat 4 held by Vice Mayor Howard Coates and Seat 2 held by Councilwoman Anne Gerwig. Though Coates had not drawn a challenger at press time, resident Sharon Lascola filed late Tuesday to run against Gerwig.

In the Town of Loxahatchee Groves, Councilman Tom Goltzené is also facing re-election. At press time, no challenger has come forward to seek the seat.

Although candidates would certainly prefer uncontested elections, we at the Town-Crier believe that the public is best served when candidates are challenged by opponents who may offer a different perspective.

We have long encouraged community activism, and it is important as ever to see residents step up to serve the community’s interests. Everyone has something to offer the community, whether it’s a unique perspective or an area of expertise. The time to get involved is now.

We hope to see voters given the opportunity to have a voice come election day, and for candidates to discuss the issues that will shape our communities in the coming years. Democracy is best achieved through discourse and consideration for all sides, and it would be a shame to miss the opportunity for meaningful discussion by leaving elections uncontested.