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Two UI students advance to Iowa City City Council general election

BY KRISTEN EAST | OCTOBER 12, 2011 7:20 AM

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Tuesday's Iowa City City Council primary election had the third-lowest voter turnout in history, and two University of Iowa students are among those who will move on to the general election.

Iowa City residents cast roughly 2,600 votes, narrowing the field for the two open seats from seven to four. Mayor Matt Hayek, Michelle Payne, Raj Patel, and Jarrett Mitchell will move on to the Nov. 8 at-large election.

Hayek, who won 64 percent of the votes Tuesday as the only incumbent on the ballot, said he was pleased with the results of the election.

"We're gratified by the results but recognize that what matters is the outcome of the general election," he said. "We intend to keep up our campaign efforts for the next four weeks and focus on November."

Payne, a part-time UI student, narrowly captured second place, beating Patel, a UI junior, by just 3 percentage points.

"I am extremely pleased and pleasantly surprised, and I have my work cut out for me until we get to the general election," she said. "I'm going to work hard over the next four weeks to get some name recognition and let people know what I'm all about."

Payne, unlike Patel, did not have the official support of UI Student Government. She said the support didn't mean much now because the two UI students were "very, very close" in votes.

Despite receiving support from 35 percent of the voters, Patel said he remains humble.

"I think this is the first step in a long, two-step process," he said. "We plan to continue working as hard as we've been working in the past two months, if not harder."

Both Payne and Patel have said improving downtown Iowa City are among their campaign goals.

Josh Eklow, a recent UI graduate, received support from just 5 percent of voters, but he was excited that Mitchell got through the primary.

Eklow said the campaign process wasn't what he thought it would be.

"During the campaign process, as I learned more and more about city politics, I got more turned off by it," Eklow said. "No one really seems to care about the election."

Johnson County Auditor Tom Slockett said the turnout for this primary election was only higher than 2009 and 1979.

Slockett predicted 1,900 to 2,000 votes by the end of the day. The average number of voters in recent years has been between 3,000 and 5,500, he said.

Slockett said he didn't know how to explain the poor voter turnout.

"I don't know whether it could be the economic situation, or that there's only one incumbent on the ballot, and perhaps some of the candidates are not as well-known as some of the other people on City Council," he said.

Johnson County Auditor's Office officials will finalize the results Thursday.


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