Petitions start to go out for Champaign council, mayor
CHAMPAIGN — Election season officially got underway in Champaign on Tuesday as prospective candidates have begun circulating petitions to get their names on the spring 2015 ballot.
If any new candidates for mayor or the three at-large city council seats are to come out of the woodwork, now would be a good time to do it. Each candidate will have to file those petitions in November if they want to be in the running for a city council seat in April.
City council elections are staggered every two years, and the members who represent each of five districts throughout the city are not up for election in 2015 — only the mayor's and three at-large council members' seats will be up for grabs in April.
Sitting council member Karen Foster was the only person who stopped by to pull petitions for mayor when the Champaign City Clerk's office opened Tuesday morning. Champaign Park District board president Joe Petry picked his up later in the day.
But with petitions available online and through a number of sources, candidates will not necessarily need to show in person.
Incumbent Mayor Don Gerard and city council member Deborah Frank Feinen were advertising their petitions for mayor through their social media networks on Tuesday.
Each candidate needs to collect 85 valid signatures from voters registered in Champaign to be included on the ballot, said city clerk Marilyn Banks. They have between now and November to collect those signatures. Candidates often go well beyond the minimum number to stave off challenges from competitors.
The official candidate filing period for mayor and at-large city council seats runs from Nov. 17 to Nov. 24. The slate of candidates will not be made official until they file their petitions and some other paperwork in preparation for the April election.
At least four people are expected to run for mayor in Champaign: Feinen, Foster, Gerard and Petry had all launched campaigns. One more candidate would trigger a primary election that would happen on Feb. 24, 2015.
The general election will happen on April 7.
It would take 13 candidates to trigger a primary election for the three at-large city council seats. That seems somewhat unlikely for now without a significantly higher number of candidates announcing campaigns for those seats.
Incumbent Tom Bruno is the only candidate so far who has told The News-Gazette he's running for an at-large seat. He will be seeking his fifth full term on the city council.
Feinen and Foster's runs for mayor mean they likely will be giving up their at-large city council seats in hopes of attaining the higher office. At-large council members are elected from one list of names, with the top three vote-getters winning the three seats. But Bruno said he doesn't know that he'll have an easier go this year with his two at-large colleagues going after the mayor's seat instead.
And, of course, no official word yet on whose names will be in the mix come next April.
"I am not operating under the assumption that I will be unopposed," Bruno said. "I'm sure it will be a lively contest."
Bruno said any number of scenarios may play out. He noted, for example, that it's not legally impossible for the mayoral candidates to play two cards and seek to retain their at-large seats, too — but it may be "practically and politically impossible."
"Anything's possible between now and November," Bruno said. "I only know what I'm going to do."