Jim Langston is the fourth generation from his family to call Des Moines home. He loves the city so much he gives tours of the Des Moines Historical Museum, and now finds himself in a situation that will certainly leave its mark on his home town.
“Well, I guess I do feel like a part of history,” he said from the museum on Friday.
Langston is in an unprecedented race for Commissioner 2 with King County Water District Number 54. Langston is 70 years old, single, a retired school teacher and is, indeed, living.
Believe it or not, that's the main issue in this election because Langston's water district rival is dead. He passed away unexpectedly in August.
“With all due respect, I would’ve liked to have beaten him in an election, but certainly not to have seen anybody pass away,” said Langston.
One might think that running against a dead person would give Langston a distinct advantage, but it’s his opponent who could emerge victorious. Because he was running unopposed at the time of filing, the late candidate’s name is the only one on the ballot.
Mr. Langston entered the race when he learned about the death, but that was after the filing deadline expired. That means he must run as a write-in candidate. Langston's name isn't even in the King County voter's guide. King County says they legally can't change the ballots because the late candidate met all the requirements.
“It’s a ruling that goes back to the Attorney General several years ago,” said King County Elections Operations Manager Sandy McConnell. “The deadline has come and gone. We can’t change that.”
Langston concedes, he has a pretty good chance of losing. He continues his history-making campaign undeterred, however. He knocks on doors, visits businesses and homeowners, and hands out a flier with his name on it and instructions about how to properly vote for a write-in candidate.
If the deceased candidate is elected, a successor would be appointed either by other Water District members or the King County Council.