Editorial: Primary has a purpose | VailDaily.com

Editorial: Primary has a purpose

Vail Daily Editorial Board

The reaction of some prominent Democrats to Vail Town Councilman Mark Gordon’s failure to get on the primary ballot seems a little, well, undemocratic.

The incumbent county commissioner, Peter Runyon, who represents the upper Vail Valley, told the Vail Daily Monday that Gordon’s inability to force a primary race will make his campaign against Republican challenger Dick Gustafson easier.

“It absolutely gives me some breathing room. I’m only going to be running one campaign rather than two,” Runyon said. “I can concentrate on getting reelected.”

New New Wallace, the former chairwoman of the Eagle County Democrats, said the party is pleased that Gordon did not make the ticket.

“Anytime you have a primary it makes things a little more contentious,” Wallace said. “The fact that he didn’t make it on just makes this election a little easier for the Democrats to win.”

We wonder why the party establishment is so afraid of a primary? The big advantage to incumbency is, of course, familiarity and experience. But a party that clings to an incumbent at all costs risks taking a little power and enthusiasm away from voters who may want to stick with the party but not the candidate.

Not speaking specifically about the current race, a party that blindly backs incumbents ” as they often do ” also risks keeping in power an official who may no longer represent the sentiments of the citizens. And this may be bad news for the general election ” voters may stay home when the incumbent needs their support in facing his opponent from the other party.

A primary race also is an opportunity for the candidates to introduce themselves to the electorate a little earlier than the fall, when the main part of the race heats up ” and before the opposing party becomes very active.

For example, voters know Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama far more intimately than they know John McCain.

And contrary to what pundits say, the Clinton-Obama race has left the party neither dangerously divided nor in shambles, but with two political superstars who could potentially form a blockbuster ticket.

While a primary race may increase costs, it can also galvanize voters to get involved earlier and spend more time with a candidate, who in turn may earn affection from supporters that’s more genuine.

In our Eagle County case, even had Gordon forced and lost a primary, it would have introduced voters to him and given the party a potentially popular successor when Runyon is term-limited in four years.

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