Candidates pour in for Missoula municipal election


MISSOULA, Mont. - Thursday marked the opening day for candidates to file for municipal offices for the November 2017 general election.

These are the candidates who have filed to-date , according to the Missoula County Elections Office.

Municipal elections in Missoula happen on odd-numbered years, and all the races are nonpartisan.

Among the candidates are Missoula's incumbent Mayor John Engen.

Engen announced on Twitter, "Filing for a fourth term as Missoula's mayor this morning to continue our good work together in this amazing city."

Engen is Missoula's 50th mayor. He was elected in 2005 in race that began with six candidates.

Missoula resident Lisa Triepke is also running for mayor. Triepke is a former member of the Target Range School District Board of Trustees.

Kathleen Jenks filed to run for her second term as Municipal Court Judge. Jenks has served in Missoula Municipal Court since November 2011.

Missoula city council seat in Ward 4 is another race to watch. Incumbent Jon Wilkins filed Thursday, but within hours two other candidates filed -- Greg Strandberg and Chris Badgley.

Missoula County Elections Administrator Rebecca Connors says voter turnout for municipal elections is typically lower. She said in 2015 turnout was only 25 percent of registered voters.

"We find that a lot of voters are only interested if the president is on the ballot. (But) the local issues and the local races are the ones that impact them the most. We would love to see higher turnout in these local elections," she said.

Voters like Brett Taylor agree. "You act locally and hopefully initiate change on a larger scale, but it all starts here," he said. "The mayor obviously sits at the top of my home, my town, my city where a lot of things go on. It's crucial to get somebody good in that seat."

Connors said Missoula holds all vote-by-mail elections for municipal elections because she says it yields a higher voter turnout. "We do provide drop-off locations throughout the voting districts on Election Day. We typically have about six to eight locations where you can deposit your ballot into a ballot box on Election Day."

Getting your name on the ballot isn't cheap.

Montana Code Annotated states candidates wishing to run for office must submit a filing fee equal to 1 percent of the position's annual salary.

Mayor filing costs $865.34 -- which is 1 percent of the $86,534 make in a year.

Filing for Municipal Court Judge candidacy costs $918.89 -- 1 percent of their $91,889 annual salary.

City council candidates pay $145.90 to file, in line with their $14,590 salary.

Connors said the 2015 municipal election cost about $67,000. She said the city pays a portion, and the agencies organizing bond measures pay a portion of the election costs. Connors says the 2013 municipal election cost around $33,000.

"Our offices takes the candidate filing fees, and that money goes towards our general fund," she said.

Candidate filing goes until June 19. Connors said the elections office will determine if a primary is necessary in September once the filing period closes.

Connors said elections offices will release information about all the candidates as the election draws closer.

You can find more municipal election information here.