The race is on

Candidates are getting an early start on a Champaign mayoral race that is nearly two years away.

As political plums go, the mayor's office in Champaign isn't much.

It affords the holder no great power because Champaign has a city manager form of government; the mayor has one vote on a nine-member city council and no veto authority. Because the part-time office has no real power, it carries no great prestige, other than affording the occupant a title and the opportunity to go places, shake hands and cut ribbons.

The mayoralty hasn't proved to be a great launching pad for higher office, so pols looking to feather their nests with generous paychecks, a fat pension, an ego-affirming high profile and real power look elsewhere. Over the last 50 years, only former Champaign Mayor Virgil Wikoff moved up to the Legislature and then only briefly.

So it's a bit of a surprise that, nearly two years before 2015 spring elections, three candidates already have announced their intention to seek the office.

First-term incumbent Mayor Don Gerard has indicated he'll be running for another four years. Incumbent Council Member Deb Feinen has stated that she plans to be a candidate and, this week, Council Member Karen Foster announced that she intends to throw her hat into the ring.

However premature it may be, the public should welcome the interest that's being demonstrated. It would be nice if good candidates for seats on the local school boards and city councils also step forward.

It's almost always the case that the more candidates, the merrier the circumstances for our people-driven democracy. The public gets a broader choice of would-be officeholders, the issues are subject to more thorough discussion, the increased political activity generates heightened interest and, therefore, higher voter turnout.

There is no downside to any of it, except perhaps for those who tire of political advertising on radio and television. So, even though it is a tad early, the candidates' interests and intentions are welcome — just so they don't start running too hard too soon.

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