To the Editor:
There have been many comments in the last month or so in various publications and on social media regarding the current mayoral election campaign in Edmond. Much of it involves whether people should or should not vote for the late Charles Lamb in the upcoming April 2 election for Mayor.
As it has been pointed out, if Charles wins the election, obviously he would not be able to be sworn in to office in May and that would create a vacancy on the city council. Under those circumstances, the Edmond City Code requires the City Council members serving at that time to appoint someone as Mayor. That appointed person would then serve out the remainder of the term until the next election. The suggestion has been made by some that this is somehow unfair or unjust, and is depriving the public of their right to vote. That is not true. All registered voters can still vote for either of the candidates on the ballot, whether alive or not.
What isn’t being said is why this unusual situation is even happening. With the tragic and unexpected passing of Charles Lamb, it has thrown the election for Mayor into new territory for all of us. What really should have happened, in my opinion, is to open up the ballot again so that anyone who wants to run for Mayor could file and participate in a full and normal election. Unfortunately, current state election law does not allow for that and we do not have that option. Some have suggested that there should be a special election held, but there is no provision in the law for that option either under these circumstances.
Because of that, some people do not believe it is a fair election and many people don’t like the choices that are left. The only option left for those who do not like the remaining choices is to vote for Charles Lamb to win and throw it to the city council to decide. While that is not a perfect solution by any means, many would rather have the city council, the elected representatives of the citizens, make the final decision.
Under any kind of normal circumstances, had Charles Lamb not run for reelection, for whatever reason, there would likely have been several other qualified individuals file and run also. There would have been choices on who to vote for instead of indirectly having to use this alternate form of getting at least one other choice on the ballot.
It should be pointed out that there is nothing inappropriate going on here. Some people are suggesting that city council appointments of council members is somehow unusual or unprecedented. That is not the case. In fact, appointments to fill elected official vacancies is quite normal at the city and state level. Council appointments to fill vacancies have happened quite often in our history. Most recently, when former mayor Patrice Douglas stepped down to become Corporation Commissioner in 2011, the city council appointed Charles Lamb, who was then Mayor Pro Tem, to be Mayor. Nobody objected. When Darrell Davis was appointed by the city council to fill Charles Lamb’s Ward 3 seat, nobody objected. When Ward 4 Councilman David Miller resigned his seat in 2012 when he was taking a job in another state, the city council appointed me to fill the vacancy. Nobody objected. Of course, all three of us later ran for reelection and have been reelected at least twice.
Now, when it appears that a certain candidate for Mayor may no longer have a free pass and could possibly lose to someone who is deceased, suddenly this whole process is somehow tainted and people are being deprived of their vote. Nobody is being deprived of their vote. In fact, there are two choices on the ballot and people can vote whichever way they think appropriate.
By the way, if it does end up where the city council needs to appoint someone, who do you think they will appoint? In fact, that is the most commonly asked question. It will likely be one of the four council members serving at that time, and they are elected representatives of the citizens of Edmond. Why would they do anything else?
One final thought — should the law be changed regarding city council appointments for council vacancies? Should state election laws be changed to accommodate a special situation like this in the unlikely event it happens again? Perhaps, or perhaps not. But that is a subject for another day. No matter what we do, it won’t change anything in time for this election; however, this process has been in effect for decades and has served us well. Special elections are rare because they are expensive. It is only because of the unusual circumstances and timing of this election that anybody even seems to care.
Ward 4 City Councilman
Mayor Pro Tem