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Mayor Curry keeps us waiting, and he will for a while: Editorial

Posted 3/15/17

The fact that James H. Curry III’s name won’t be on the May 16 primary ballot provides interesting insight into the man as well as the peculiarities of the Pennsylvania election system.

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Mayor Curry keeps us waiting, and he will for a while: Editorial

Posted

The fact that James H. Curry III’s name won’t be on the May 16 primary ballot provides interesting insight into the man as well as the peculiarities of the Pennsylvania election system.

We have been asking the mayor for several months whether he planned on running for a second four-year term after being easily elected as a Democrat in 2013. His answer was always that he hadn’t decided and he had time to figure it out.

So when the March 7 deadline to appear on the primary ballot came and went, and he hadn’t filed, we assumed he wouldn’t be a candidate. Again, he chose not to respond to our requests for comment. Instead, he went to his Facebook page on March 8, the day after the deadline, to explain the situation via video — something he does regularly.

He is no longer a Democrat, he said. He is “non-affiliated,” and to get on the primary ballot would have required someone else — a registered Democrat or Republican — to circulate nomination petitions on his behalf. Because he said he was “not willing” to do that, it was a “physical impossibility” for him to be on the May 16 ballot.

That’s fine. The party change makes sense. Many residents were surprised to find out that Curry was a Democrat to begin with. He was one of the most ardent Donald Trump supporters in the state.

But he should have shared his situation with us — not just the Press & Journal, but the entire population of Middletown — before the day after the deadline for the primary. It’s a reasonable expectation to have. The sitting mayor should declare his intentions as those potential candidates around him are doing the same.

But with all that said, he has yet to decide whether he is going to run. Just because he isn’t on the primary ballot doesn’t mean he can’t. In fact, he has more time — until Aug. 1 — to turn in his nomination signatures and appear on the November ballot as an independent.

Despite the fact that he is not a candidate yet, he had no problem taking a swipe in his video at the Republican candidates.

“I was hoping that if I chose not to run someone would step up with a very clear vision of what they wanted for the town, and what policies and efforts they would put forth to better Middletown,” Curry said in a reference to longtime police officer Robert Givler, whom Curry defeated in the 2013 election for mayor; and recently retired Middletown Police Department Detective Richard Hiester. “To date I’m not entirely pleased with the options.”

That sounds like he’s a candidate to us.

So now he has four months to keep the community in suspense about what he plans to do. Four months for people to express their support. Four months to be the mystery candidate, to be the center of attention.

How you feel about how he handled the situation is almost Trumpian. If you support him and think he’s been great for the borough (Middletown has no bigger cheerleader, and it’s one of his greatest assets), then you probably will write it off as Jim being Jim. If you question his leadership, or have concerns over whether he has handled the police department properly, then you likely have a more negative take on it. As with Trump’s candidacy, a little controversy might not sway voters much one way or the other.

And speaking of the Pennsylvania election laws: They are stacked against an independent being on a primary ballot, but actually work in the favor of someone trying to get on the November ballot because they have more time to gather signatures.

The advantage is even larger in local elections, when name recognition usually isn’t an issue for a potential independent candidate and they don’t rely on the financial backing of the Democratic or Republican parties.

It begs the question: Why should the government be involved in primary elections at all? Why should taxpayers foot the bill for the parties to narrow down their field of candidates?

And as for Curry, we hope he does run. He has accomplished a great deal during his tenure and certainly is a worthy candidate, and we would like to see him on the ballot. That doesn’t mean we endorse him, but simply that Middletown residents deserve solid choices for their mayor.

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