Mayor Tom Watson said during Tuesday that the City of Owensboro could reinstate a primary election for local elections as soon as January 2021.
The notion of bringing back a primary was a big talking point during this year’s local election, which included a record-setting 16 City Commission candidates and four mayoral candidates.
“I appreciate the campaign between Pam (Smith-Wright), Larry (Conder) and Dracin (Williams) — it wasn’t ugly. It was an odd campaign. 2020 will go down in the record books as an interesting year for many, many reasons,” Watson said. “It would’ve been much more efficient for our community if we’d had a primary. It’s my goal that the commission will agree that, as soon as possible, we will institute a primary again for local government.”
Watson also noted the often unseen hardships of running a campaign like funding and managing a full-time job while competing for office. Raising large amounts of money for a campaign, he said, was “not fun.”
Though it will be two years before another City Commission election is held, Watson said it was “pretty difficult” to have a community of 60,000 people choose four out of 16 candidates.
“Our community needs to have people who are elected that — from a format — makes it equal and fair for everybody,” he said. “I think next year is the first year we can put the [primary election] back on.”
Watson reflected on previous elections, when he’d successfully won the mayoral seat with the additional component of a primary, calling those campaigns “more effective in getting your message out.”
“When you can sit side-by-side like [Judge-Executive] Al Mattingly and I did one time, and people can better judge where you’re going,” he said.
However, Watson said, the difference between two and four candidates meant the numbers crunched differently as well. In 2020, he noted, the analytics showed that only 38-41% of the vote was needed to win.
“That’s truly not a mandate but, at the same time, it is what it is,” he said. “At the same time, if you have two people running for mayor and eight people running for four seats, it’s much more accommodating for people in my view.”