OTTUMWA — It's hard to know what candidates are thinking after a primary election. But having gone through the same thing himself, Jeremy Weller has a pretty good idea.
"The day after the primary, I woke up and thought, 'Phew. I made it.' But then it was time to re-evaluate, to look at what I'd been doing in [the campaign]; that was when the work was to begin," said Weller, an Ottumwa City Council member who has decided not to run for another term.
Tuesday night was the "semi-finals" in Ottumwa, where seven candidates for City Council where reduced to six. The general election is when three council members will be chosen by voters.
"When I ran for the primary, there were 14, 15 candidates? I made it through in fifth place, and I knew that [in the November election] they were only going to be taking the top three. So I'm in fifth, and I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me. I'll tell you, it was after the primary but before the general when the work really started."
Of course, the person in first place this time was ahead by 300 votes in an election where 366 votes was enough to get through to the next round. So don't jump to conclusions, cautioned the councilman.
"It doesn't mean those others are out of it. I was sitting in fifth, several hundred votes away from first. Three or four nights a week, I was knocking on doors, along with my wife and our 1-year-old in a stroller. Then there were the candidate forums, which I think I did well at."
It was enough; Weller went from the fifth-highest vote count to the third-highest, putting him on the City Council four years ago.
"That was the recipe for me, at least," he said. "The people that finished fourth, fifth and sixth Tuesday still absolutely have a chance to climb into the top three. Which is why as I move on, I'm so glad to see we've got six good candidates. "
The hard work required starting right now, he said, is good practice for those who do get voted onto the council. Because doing that job right is going to take work, too, he said. Especially in the beginning, when newcomers may struggle to catch up with the veteran council members.
"If you talk to anyone on council, there's a learning curve after you get elected," Weller said. "It can take six months before you really understand how things work. You step in there in January and within two months, you've got to decide a budget."
— To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark