Sixteen people will vie for six seats in the upcoming Missoula City Council election.
Four incumbents hope to stave off challenges to their seats in the nonpartisan race scheduled for Nov. 5, including running against some candidates who were recruited by current Councilor Jesse Ramos.
Ramos often is the lone dissenting voice in many of the council’s decisions, including those involving Tax Increment Financing. He said that after he wrote a column that ran in the Missoulian in February urging people to consider running for seats in their wards, he was contacted by about 60 people.
“I have got a bevy of candidates that wanted to run, and in every seat except for Ward 3 they’ve asked for my guidance,” Ramos said on Tuesday, the day after candidate filings closed. “There’s a couple of Democrats, a couple of Republicans, a couple Independents and Libertarian types; people of all political sides who are tired of the spending, the higher taxes, and the inefficiencies of our city government.”
The city has six wards, with two representatives in each with staggered four-year terms. The job pays $15,478 annually, and includes city health insurance.
In Ward 1, which generally covers northeast Missoula, incumbent Heidi West is being challenged by Elizabeth Weaver and Amber Shaffer.
In Ward 2, which is in northwest Missoula, Brent Sperry will take on incumbent Mirtha Becerra.
In south-central Missoula’s Ward 3, both Dakota Hileman and Drew Iverson will try to unseat incumbent Gwen Jones.
The Ward 4 spot in southeast Missoula is open after John DiBari decided not to run for a second term. Greg Strandberg, Amber Sherrill and Alan Ault are vying for that position.
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Southwest Missoula’s Ward 5 has incumbent Julie Armstrong facing challengers John Contos and Alex Fregerio.
In Ward 6 in west Missoula, Nick Shontz and Sandra Vasecka will seek the position being vacated by Michelle Cares.
The candidates Ramos is supporting include Shaffer, Sperry, Ault, Contos and Vasecka.
“The biggest deal is the budget,” Ramos said. “This isn’t a left or a right issue, it’s somewhere in the middle. These are people who are concerned about affordable housing and property taxes, and are tired of the feel-good stuff.
“It’s not campaign rhetoric, but people are literally getting taxed out of their homes and young people can’t afford to move here. … That’s what’s kind of bringing all of us together.”
Missoula County Elections Administrator Dayna Causby said the list of candidates doesn’t meet the threshold where a primary election is necessary, but that’s an option for the City Council to decide. It’s estimated that a primary would cost the city anywhere from $21,000 to $41,000, depending on the number of wards involved.
“Our space in the courthouse is so small we can’t hold an election out of it, so we would have to rent the fairgrounds,” Causby said on Tuesday. “For this situation we will not have to have a primary.”
The deadline for consideration of a resolution to request a primary election is June 27. However, it will be discussed by the Committee of the Whole, which basically consists of the entire City Council, beginning at 10:55 a.m. Wednesday in the City Council chambers.
Causby said late registration begins Oct. 8 for the mail-in only Nov. 5 election. Ballots should arrive at residents' homes by the end of October.