Centennial nonpartisan charade

Local elections this fall for school boards and municipal offices (the ones that haven't been canceled for lack of interest) occur in a fog of nonpartisan obscurity. In my Denver Post column this week, I likened the voter's dilemma, absent Republican and Democratic tags to help identify the local candidates, to guessing on unlabeled canned goods at the food bank. The column cited Cherry Creek schools and the city of Centennial, where I reside, as typical cases -- but space didn't allow for specifics. So here are a few of them.

The other day in our neighborhood I noticed a block jammed with parked cars. They belonged to guests at a candidate coffee for John Flerlage, the Democrat hoping to unseat Congressman Mike Coffman next year. His banner adorned the home of Centennial Ward III councilman Patrick Anderson, an activist Democrat who was able to get elected in our heavily Republican area because the ballot allows for no party ID.

Anderson's wife is Jennifer Herrera, who ran for Cherry Creek school board in 2007. She was unhappy with me for distributing an email identifying her as a registered Democrat and Jim O'Brien, the eventual winner, as a Republican.

Jennifer Herrera's brother is Justin Herrera, another Democrat who resides at the same address and ran last year for RTD Board -- nonpartisan again, do you start to see a pattern? The union-backed Herrera lost to Republican Jack O'Boyle, and I again did my bit for open government by noting their respective party identities in a mass email.

My popularity with those good folks no doubt sank lower as a result, and it may go lower still with this blog post. But come on, people, what do you have against sunshine? Are you ashamed of your political party? You want an informed electorate, don't you?

The other council seat here in Ward III is held by the ostensibly nonpartisan Rebecca McClellan. She too is an avid Democrat, having been Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman for Arapahoe County in 2008. As McClellan runs for another term this fall, incumbency will be on her side. Republican challenger Cindy Combs will have the handicap of no party labels on the ballot to guide a GOP-heavy electorate in her direction.

One more example from my idealistic little suburb, where "politics were going to be different" according to the civic founders who incorporated us in 2000, and where I once got in hot water even with fellow Republicans (naive souls) for "soiling" the process with one of my who's-who partisan email slates during campaign season...

This example is Centennial Ward I -- a midterm vacancy contest now occurring between Ron Phelps and Vorry Moon. The nonpartisan gag rule under state law prevents voters from readily knowing that Phelps is with the GOP while Moon is a leading Democrat, chairman of his party's organization in House District 37 where Dems are targeting state Rep. Spencer Swalm.

All that voters will know about Vorry Moon is his previous council service in Centennial, prior to losing a second-term bid to Betty Ann Habig in 2007, and that resume' entry with its accompanying name identification gives him an advantage when the low-profile mail ballot comes out next month.

An unfair advantage in the larger scheme of things, it seems to me -- if we really care about the competitive, accountable elections and governance that two-party politics excels at providing.