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Porter, Hemingway Vie For Open Johnson County Supervisor Seat

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Two candidates familiar to Johnson County voters are vying to fill the remaining term of Kurt Friese, who died in October.

Two candidates are running to be the next Johnson County supervisor. A special election is gearing up to determine who will fill a two year opening on the board.

The Democratic Party of Johnson County has nominated labor organizer Royceann Porter for the seat. Porter previously ran for Iowa City Council in 2013.

Johnson County Republicans have tapped Phil Hemingway, who ran for another opening on the board during the November election. Hemingway currently sits on the board of the Iowa City Community Community Schools.  His term expires in 2019.

The Johnson County Auditor's Office recieved inquiries from a handful of others interested in running, but no independent or third party candidates officially entered their name ahead of Monday's 5 p.m. deadline. 

Outgoing supervisor Mike Carberry will not run for the position, which was held by his friend and colleague Kurt Friese, who died suddenly in October. Carberry lost his primary during a re-election bid this year and his term expires on December 31st. Some of Friese's supporters and neighbors hoped Carberry would finish out Friese's term, either by appointment or election.

Local officials ultimately opted to organize the election instead of appointing a replacement, due to the length of the remaining term, which runs through December 2020.

Still, Deputy Auditor Carrie Nierling says it’s not clear how much interest the race will get.

“To be honest, this time of year, a lot of it is dependent on weather. If we get a snow storm kind of like we did yesterday in Iowa City, that’s going to impact turnout quite a bit," Nierling said. 

Nierling says this year's record turnout during November's general election won't necessarily carry over into the special election. 

“We’re thinking that it’s maybe going to be in the 6,000 to 8,000 range, maybe around 8,000 total voters. That would kind of put it in the middle range of our lowest turnout supervisor election versus our highest turnout supervisor election,” Nierling said. 

According to the office's historical data, turnout has varied widely during past county-wide special elections, ranging from 10.99 percent in 2010 to 23.39 percent in 1999.

Election Day is December 18th, and early voting is slated to start December 5th.

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter