An issue that often comes up in politics is the “carpetbagger” question. The qualifications to run for elected office usually include a residency requirement (except for some special districts, like fire and water, where property ownership is sufficient). This usually requires a potential candidate to live in their district for at least one year (12 consecutive months) prior to the election. While Lakewood’s rules do require a one-year residency they do not specify the 12 consecutive months of residency must actually be in the ward the candidate seeks to represent. Of course, the candidate must live in the ward during the time they are serving as the representative. If an office holder moves during their term, they must resign and an election held for a replacement (this happened with Ward 1’s Vicki Stack a few years back).
As noted previously, Ward 1 Council Member Ramey Johnson has gotten into trouble with Lakewood’s political establishment. In 2015 she challenged the establishment’s candidate for mayor, Adam Paul, and almost beat him. She garnered about 49 and half percent of the total city vote. If it hadn’t been for Paul’s top line ballot position (usually worth 1 to 3% of the vote) and the accompanying school board recall election which generated a lot of anti-Republican backlash (Ramey is a Republican), she would have been mayor.
The rule in Lakewood politics is if a city public official publicly opposes the establishment they must be barred from re-election. (Note – however, this rule has been violated recently with the re-election of independent Councilors David Wiechman and Pete Roybal). Accordingly, the establishment made plans to get rid of Ms. Johnson. At first, they tried to interpret the City Charter to count her partial term as a full-term. If this had worked, then they would apply the term limit rule to bar her from running. When it was clear this tactic would not pass legal muster, they fell back on Plan B – run a candidate to defeat her.
Because of Ramey’s popularity in her ward (around 60%), none of the serious establishment candidates (like Jeff Yeager) want to take her on in a fair fight. Therefore, the establishment was forced to fall back on young woman barely out of college. Kyra deGruy, a 27-year-old yoga instructor with strong ties to the Young Democrats, volunteered for this suicide mission. The problem with her youth and inexperience is not only is she clueless about governance in general but Lakewood and Ward 1 specifically.
Her husband bought the property she claims as her residence in July 2016. She registered to vote in September 2016 and cast a ballot in November 2016. A few months later, in January 2017, she then filed to run for City Council. Counting the July 2016 date as the start of a 12-consecutive month period means she barely qualifies to have a one-year residency. Some community leaders are concerned a neophyte can “parachute in” and with some donation money buy a slick election campaign which could conceivably win an election. The idea of a stranger coming in and claiming to represent our people has alarmed many local leaders many of whom have lived in Lakewood their whole lives. These folks are looking into the possibility of amending Lakewood’s rules to require a longer residency period before filing for election.