All candidates for Salem’s city council would have to meet the same ballot access requirements and parties no longer would hold nominating primaries for those seats under legislation that was unanimously passed in the Virginia Senate today.
Senate Bill 939 would change Salem’s city charter to require all candidates to adhere to the same petition requirements and deadlines that now apply only independent candidates. Under current law party nominees aren’t required to submit petitions.
The Salem City Council requested the charter change, which also would prohibit candidates from being identified on the ballot by party affiliation.
Sen. Ralph Smith, R-Bedford County, who represents Salem in the Senate sponsored the bill.
The bill now goes to the House of Delegates. No proposed charter change was introduced in that chamber and the delegate who represents the city, Salem Republican Greg Habeeb, made no commitment to support it today.
“I don’t know why you would want to take away a party’s right to nominate people,” said Habeeb, a former chairman of Salem’s Republican committee
Habeeb said he wants to review Smith’s bill before taking a position. Despite the council’s support for the charter change, Habeeb said he hasn’t heard an outpouring of support for it.
“All of the feedback I have receives is negative, but it wasn’t that much feedback,” Habeeb said.
– Michael Sluss