Morrow announces breakdown for council races

Charter was vague about how to identify at-large seats

MORROW — The race to see who will win two open seats on the Morrow City Council became a little clearer late Thursday.

The city announced Jeff DeTar will run against Hang Tran for the seat to be vacated by outgoing Councilman Virlyn Slayton. Randy Anderson and Chris Mills will run for the seat held by Councilman Bob Huie.

Slayton and Huie decided not to seek re-election this year, leaving officials unsure at first about how to list the candidates on the ballot because of a lack of clarity in the city charter. In the past, they would just list the incumbent they were running against when they qualified as a candidates and voters could only vote for one person.

City Clerk Evyonne Browning said it was uncharted territory for Morrow and she had to seek advice from city attorney Greg Hecht and the State Elections Board about how to proceed.

“It’s never come up before in the history of the city,” said Browning. “There was no record of this issue ever coming up before. At least not any that we could find.”

Candidates run at-large for council seats in Morrow because the city does not have council wards or districts. Browning said the application to run for office has candidates write in which seat they are running for, but when the seats aren’t numbered, it leads to ambiguity about which seat they are seeking and will hold.

The problem was, without Huie and Slayton running again, the city had lost its way to mark which seats candidates were running for. The city doesn’t have much of a history of contested council races, at least not recently because councilmen usually ran unopposed.

“Prior to this election, we always had an incumbent running, so we always had a way to figure out which seat people were running for,” said Browning. “But now we have two councilmen retiring and we had to figure out a way to sort out which seat people were running for.”

And when there was a vacancy, it was usually only one seat, not two. The last contested council race was the 2010 special election to replace Councilman Charles Sorrow, who had died in office. But even then, the candidates were running for one seat.

So there wasn’t a precedent in recent memory that officials could use as an example. And the city charter didn’t clear the issue either.

“Our charter is vague on this issue,” said Browning.

After consulting with Hecht and state officials, it was decided to have candidates declare which outgoing councilman they intended to replace. They could pick either seat they wanted to run for, and it just happened that it broke down with two people running to fill each vacancy.

Despite the confusion, and the sorting out of races, Browning said the seats are still at-large. That means all voters in Morrow will get to vote for both seats.

Candidate forum set for next month

Morrow residents will get a chance to meet the council candidates and hear about their vision for the city in October. The League of Women Voters has scheduled a forum where the candidates will discuss issues facing the city Oct. 8. The forum will begin at the end of that week’s council business meeting.

The meeting and forum will be held at Morrow City Hall, 1500 Morrow Road. A work session will take place at 6:30 p.m., followed by the council meeting at 7:30 p.m. There is no specific start time for the forum, other than it will begin as soon as the business meeting ends.

The Morrow Garden Club will host a meet-and-greet reception, where residents can talk to the candidates one-on-one, after the forum ends.