BELOIT — Candidates running for local office in the upcoming February primary and April general elections are facing new challenges reaching voters in the age of COVID-19.
In the City of Beloit and Town of Beloit, positions up for election include Beloit City Council, Beloit School Board, Township Board of Supervisors and Beloit-Turner School Board.
League of Women Voters president Susan Adams said candidates must find new ways to garner petition signatures and rethink how they campaign.
“People going door-to-door is a challenge right now and people have to get creative,” Adams said. “I think securing the signatures is one of the biggest challenges. Candidates most likely have to rely on their friends and get that network going.”
Beloit council members require at least 100 valid signatures of Beloit residents; Town of Beloit Board members must secure at least 20 signatures of township residents, while Beloit and Town of Beloit school board posts do not require signatures for ballot placement.
For Beloit City Council, the seats held by Vice President Clinton Anderson and councilors Sherry Blakeley and Nancy Forbeck will be up for reelection, with all three candidates set to run for office once again.
Anderson, who was first elected in 2017, said the 2020-2021 campaign “will definitely be different” than past pushes for office.
“It would be irresponsible to go door to door during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Anderson said. “This election will rely largely on social media and indirect voter contact like mail and phone calls.”
Anderson said the loss of personal, face-to-face conversations with Beloit residents poses another significant challenge for candidates, but stressed the need to focus efforts in online and campaigning by phone.
“I feel it would be hypocritical to not change the way I campaign,” Anderson said. “We have to lead by example and be consistent ... Public health and safety should be a priority. I applaud and respect candidates who are changing their strategies to keep us all safe.”
Anderson said he expects others to also rely heavily on campaigning through social media.
“It will feel different though,” Anderson said. “I personally love knocking on doors and having conversations with our residents. It will be an aspect of the campaign season that I will miss.”
League of Women Voters Treasurer Gayle Hotchkiss said the league is planning to hold virtual candidate forums for city council and school board candidates.
“It’s concerning, from the league’s standpoint, because we normally do in-person events, but safety is the priority right now,” Hotchkiss said.
For Beloit School Board, Kyle Larsen and Spencer Anderson are up for re-election.
In the Town of Beloit, incumbent Town Board Chair Tammy Maegli is up for reelection, and so are town board supervisors George Skip Rath and Jim Stevens.
Turner School Board President John Turner and school board member Melissa Genovese-Hughes are up for re-election with a deadline to file for candidacy set for Jan. 5.
In South Beloit, nomination papers are available for anyone who wants to run for an unexpired term on the South Beloit City Council. Prospective candidates can circulate nomination petitions between Dec. 14 and Dec. 21 to collect voter signatures. The election for the seat will be held April 6, 2021. City Council member Lori Duffy resigned her position on the council and moved out of state. Ryan Adleman was appointed to the council to fill her seat. Duffy’s term expires in 2023.