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Potential candidacy requirements to run for office in Longview take shape

By Richard Yeakley
Feb. 12, 2013 at 11 p.m.

Candidates who want to run for elected office in Longview as of May 2014 may have to do more than just toss their hats into the ring.

The Longview City Council this week is set to discuss changes that would add a $100 fee or require a 25-signature petition to file and would require candidates to have lived at least a full year in the district they are seeking to represent.

If approved, an ordinance to be reviewed Thursday would set a May 11 election to change the city's charter.

"This goes back to a discussion by council following the 2012 election," said city spokesman Shawn Hara.

The proposed change to the city's charter would have to be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice, but a citywide election could be conducted and the decision be effective if the charter change is approved.

The idea to require a filing fee came after the mayoral race in 2012, when a candidate for office moved from Longview shortly before the election. That required the city to pay for a citywide election.

In meetings after the election, council members considered requiring a petition or instituting a filing fee, hoping it would force potential candidates into a deeper commitment.

According to Texas election law, a city may set a fee as long as it also gives candidates the option to gather signatures in lieu of payment.

The required number of signatures should be one-half of 1 percent of the number of registered voters who cast ballots in the last mayoral election or 25 signatures, whichever is greater.

The Longview NAACP spoke out Tuesday against the proposed charter change.

"Speaking for the NAACP and me personally, we absolutely and unequivocally are in opposition of that proposal," said Branden Johnson, president of the local chapter.

Johnson argues that a candidacy filing fee is unprecedented for East Texas and would only serve to disenfranchise potential candidates.

Johnson also said that cost of elections, even city wide elections for mayor, rarely cost more than $20,000 and that the city has not gone over budget for an election.

If voters approve implementation of the filing requirements, Longview would be the first major East Texas city to do so.

The City Council is scheduled to meet at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, 300 W. Cotton St.



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