Missoula’s city council canceled a primary election in Ward 5 Wednesday morning after incumbent Julie Armstrong withdrew her bid for a second Missoula City Council term, citing the added expense of having to participate in a primary election.
With little comment, the measure passed 9-0 after a hastily-called special city council meeting. Council President Bryan von Lossberg said he would “state the obvious” in that “there now are only two candidates in the ward now, so there’s no need for a primary.” Councilors Michelle Cares, Jordan Hess and Armstrong were absent.
Armstrong told the Missoulian on Tuesday that she planned to run until the council decided on June 19 that they would hold a primary in the four wards in which three or more candidates were running for office. After researching her opponents in Ward 5 — John Contos and Alex Fregerio — Armstrong decided they both were suitable candidates.
She added that with a primary, candidates have to spend money twice, which is difficult. Armstrong also cited the cost of the primary to taxpayers, which was estimated to be $51,000 by Missoula County Elections Administrator Dayna Causby.
“With a primary, you have to spend money twice, and that’s hard for people in general,” Armstrong said.
The cancellation of the primary drops the cost to taxpayers by an estimated $10,000, according to Causby.
Alan Ault, a council candidate for Ward 4, chided the council for spending the money on the primary. Causby has said that by law, it isn’t necessary but up to the council.
“Like a lot of citizens, I see absolutely no need for it. It’s not mandated,” Ault told the council. “How many sidewalks can you fix or repair for $45,000?”
Causby said on Wednesday that the estimated cost for primaries in Wards 1, 3, and 4, where three candidates are running for council, is $41,000.