With elections just a month away, some New Castle city council candidates have differing impressions on the priority their race has in comparison to the mayor’s race.
“It’s all about the council. You have to have a good council,” said Lawrence Williams, a Republican candidate.
There are three seats up for grabs this election year with four candidates hopeful they’ll be one of the lucky few. Although the race is coming down to the wire, the attention of constituents seem hyper-focused on the mayor race.
“People are so enamored with the dynamics of those guys (mayor candidates) that they’re forgetting that city council is what is needed to get the city moving forward,” said Williams. “A strong city council (will) be able to work with these guys (mayor candidates) to get their projects funded.”
“The mayor’s race is prominent in the voter’s mind, as it well should be, and I don’t think anybody running for city council would deny that or want to be in the forefront,” said MaryAnne Gavrile, a Democratic candidate.
“You have the mayor’s race being one, and then the commissioners and then I would think city council falls underneath that,” said Bryan Cameron, a Democrat, about how he thinks the local election races rank in voters’ minds.
Gavrile said she speaks a lot about the importance of the council to constituents, but says there are some misconceptions about what they can do as a taxing body. She says there are “very distinct roles” in the city code as to the mayor and council’s responsibilities.
“Council is a different role than the mayor’s role,” said Gavrile. “People don’t understand this. Council is the checks and balances of the mayor and his administration.”
“I would say it’s probably about 50/50,” said Cameron about percent of constituents who know what the council has specific control over. “I think most people have a good understanding, but there are misconceptions out there.”
According to Gavrile, council is in charge of such elements as ordinances and voting on bids, but have “nothing to do with” repairing streets or tackling blight.
“We can always put pressure on the mayor (to address problems the council cannot). We do control the money, which is a big deal also,” said Gavrile.
Candidates have a few more weeks to appeal to voters, and Williams says he’s supplied shirts for his family and friends to get his name out in the community.
“I find that everybody from everywhere I go, they’re every enthusiastic about my race and the city council race,” said Gavrile. “I haven’t found anybody saying to me, ‘Oh. It’s just city council.’ Not at all. People are looking for change. People are looking for new ideas.”
Gavrile says she attends other candidates’ events, such as mayor or county commissioner, in order to meet constituents. She says she does not door knock or host her own events due to expenses.
Cameron said he knocked on doors during the primary, and will begin to do that again in the weeks leading up to Election Day.
“They’re encouraged,” said Cameron. “It seems like everyone’s excited, regardless of who they’re going to be voting for. They believe that change is coming.”
Williams said he sees his opponents “riding the coattails” of candidates in other races in the hopes that voters will vote for one party without hearing the specific goals of the candidate.
“They need to get out and they need to make some statements about some of the things that have been going on,” said Williams. “They’re not doing anything. They’re just waiting to see what the (potential) mayor is going to say and go from there.”
William calls upon his opponents to “come out of the shadows, and shays one of his goals is to bring “professionalism back” to city council.
“Council plays an immensely important role in county government,” said Gavrile. “We have to work with whoever is elected mayor. That’s the bottom line.”