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Write-in hopefuls face uphill battle

For a write-in election bid to succeed, a lot of things must happen.

Voters must know how to correctly spell the name of the write-in candidate, and they must know how to cast the vote correctly.

Despite the difficulty, two people in Fayette County have stepped up to the challenge of trying to win council seats as write-in candidates — Randy Tobia in District 2 and Troy Lacefield in District 3.

"It's uphill, but not impossible," said Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins.

One thing in Tobia and Lacefield's favor is the fact that council seats are non-partisan in Lexington, Blevins said.

Many people vote a straight party ticket, and when they do that, the write-in candidates are bypassed, Blevins said. "You lose ground in a partisan race as a write-in candidate to all those people who vote a straight party ticket. In a non-partisan race, you do not have that phenomenon."

But overall, the odds are against Tobia and Lacefield because write-in challenges are extremely difficult, Blevins said. Voters don't seek out information about candidates who aren't on the ballot.

The only write-in candidates who have won in Fayette County were people who ran for seats that did not have a candidate on the ballot, Blevins said. "No write-in candidate has ever won a district (council) seat."

Once, three write-in candidates garnered more total votes than the candidate on the ballot, Blevins said. But the candidate on the ballot still won because none of the write-ins individually received more votes.

District 2

Tobia filed as a write-in candidate in District 2 because he opposes issuing ID cards or expanding benefits to immigrants in the United States illegally — two items incumbent Tom Blues supports, he said.

Tobia is confident he will win. "There's going to be a lot of surprises come Election Day," he said. "Tom is going to be very surprised he gets beat."

His family has to pay his 2-year-old daughter's medical bills, which include 13 therapy appointments a week, Tobia said. Her illness has not yet been fully diagnosed.

"If my wife and I were born in Mexico and had came across illegally, my daughter would get those services through Medicaid or Medicare," he said. "I can't stand by and watch benefits be expanded for people that are here illegally when somebody like my wife and I ... can get no help at all for something that would be considered a catastrophic illness."

Blues, who is seeking his second term in office, says that Tobia is misrepresenting his stance on immigration. He does not support expanding benefits or issuing ID cards to immigrants who are residing in the United States illegally, Blues said.

Blues said he supports providing services that are required by federal law, such as health care and access to public education.

He opposes providing ID cards or driver's licenses to immigrants in the country illegally, Blues said. "We want to treat everybody with respect and realize that we're dealing with human beings. At the same time, we don't want to provide documentation that implies legitimacy."

The country needs comprehensive immigration reform, but that has to be done on the federal level, Blues said. "A local, municipal government virtually has no power in this realm."

Besides stopping illegal immigration, Tobia's top issue is curbing city spending.

Tobia is going door-to-door and has a Web site, radio commercials and yard signs. He had raised $600 and spent $580 as of Oct. 3, the most recent campaign finance reports available.

Blues' top issues include managing the city's budget, working with neighborhoods and providing basic services such as police protection and traffic solutions.

Much of his time as a councilman has been spent on forming neighborhood associations and communicating with them, said Blues, whose path to the council began as an officer in the Meadowthorpe Neighborhood Association. "A neighborhood, if it's well informed and organized, it has real power."

Blues has not filed any campaign finance reports.

District 3

Lacefield holds no illusions about the difficult path to win as a write-in candidate.

"I don't feel my chances are that great, but I have as good a chance as anybody if people take the time to write my name in," Lacefield said. "I know I'm a long shot and that write-ins rarely win, but it does happen occasionally. You just have to be willing to work at it."

Lacefield, 43, filed as a write-in in District 3 because he said he was tired of decisions being made without public input.

The city decided to close Rose Street for a University of Kentucky Hospital expansion, and the plans for the controversial CentrePointe hotel, residential and retail project were drawn up without public input, Lacefield said.

Lacefield is going up against Diane Lawless and Eric Thomason in the race to succeed Councilman Dick DeCamp, who is serving his sixth consecutive term and can't run again because of term limits. Lawless and Thomason both survived the five-way primary race to move on to the November election.

Lacefield's issues include increasing public involvement in city discussions, creating affordable housing and investing in public infrastructure such as LexTran and the sewer system and burying utility lines.

Lacefield has not filed any campaign finance reports. He is running a self-funded campaign by going door-to-door handing out leaflets he prints on his computer.