Today is the day people who want to run for office with a party endorsement in 2006 begin submitting their petitions for the March Primary. The Primary is where the parties fill in their official slates of candidates, and so the filing period is the time when party officials, and incumbent office holders, are most vulnerable. Anyone who wants to run – office holder, serious challenger, gadfly wacko – can file for office.
This is also the first movement in an elaborate dance that leads up to swearing-in. The first phase involves sizing the field. Incumbents tend to file early, both because first filers get the top ballot position but also because it may give them time to find other candidates, for their own race or others. Incumbents prefer to run unopposed, but some take a “more the merrier” attitude, especially in down-ticket races where the signature requirements are low and voters often have less information on candidates (more on that later).
After filing comes certification, by which time some candidates may be challenged and removed, some may have changed their minds and withdrawn, and some candidates who are ineligible may, by lack of challenge, be allowed to stay on the ballot. And then… Well, it’s a long dance.
Candidates can file through next Monday, the 19th. About half of all candidates will likely file today. Another third will file on the last day, angling for the last ballot position which, if you can’t be first, is presumed to be best. The rest will dribble in on the other four days. As of today, the race is truly on.