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Expert: Elected Officials Need Election Challengers To Be Held Accountable

Leslie Lenkowsky

Indiana University public policy professor Leslie Lenkowsky says competition in local elections is important. (Joe Hren, WFIU/WTIU News)

An Indiana University expert says it’s hard to hold elected officials accountable when incumbents go unchallenged.

That’s effectively what will happen in Bloomington’s mayoral primary in May. Monroe County Commissioner Amanda Barge suspended her campaign against Mayor John Hamilton this week after sexual harassment allegations against her surfaced in an Indiana Daily Student report.

Barge denies the claims.

While she ended her campaign this week, Barge will still appear on the ballot. Monroe County election officials say that means she could still win the primary. 

Indiana University public policy professor Leslie Lenkowsky says competition in local elections is important.

"People are not angels, we govern ourselves. All the more reason why you need really active election cycles," Lenkowsky says. "We’d be a lot better off as a country not only if you had two party composition, but within the dominant party you had real primary challenges."

Lenkowsky says the same happens with the majority of congressional candidates who win on the side of the predominant political party.

But, he says, the lack of a challenger also hurts the incumbent.

"In an election, you get the feedback from voters that will enable you to sort of trim, modify your position going forward, puts you back in touch."

He says a Bloomington mayoral challenger for the general election this fall would quickly need to organize and fund raise to get a campaign off the ground.

Republican and Libertarian parties have until noon on June 30 to choose a candidate to challenge Hamilton.

Indiana’s primary election is May 7. 

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