Political candidates can knock on doors, shake hands and kiss babies, but none of it matters if voters don’t go to the polls.

Low voter turnout in Tuesday’s Republican primary is a concern of two Somerset mayoral candidates who will be stepping up things in the fall to try to overcome voter apathy.

Mayor JP Wiles and challenger Eddie Girdler, executive director of the Somerset Housing Authority, will face off in the November general election to see who will represent the city of Somerset for the next four years. Both commend the three candidates in the judge-executive’s race for a hard-fought campaign. However, they realize, based on Tuesday’s election, it is more important than ever for candidates to give voters a reason to vote.

“If there is a light turnout, you never know who will win and who will lose,” said Wiles.

Businessman Barty Bullock pulled off the political upset of the year by defeating four-term county Judge-executive Darrell BeShears. Bullock won the Republican nomination and will take office in January because no Democrat filed for the post.

“The one thing I learned from this election is not to take anyone for granted,” said Girdler. “Our job, as politicians, is to try to encourage as many people as possible to get out and vote.”

Voters who cast ballots in Tuesday’s primary signified they want a change. The strong showing for Bullock, Girdler hopes, will open the door for new leadership and improves his chances to be mayor.

Ultimately that decision is up to the voters.

“That’s what so good about our system. The people have the final say,” said Wiles, who is seeking his second term as mayor.

Wiles and Girdler agree a light vote can influence the outcome.

Low voter turnout means “(voters) are not for you and they are not against you. They just stay home,” observed Wiles.

“Based on my experience, most people will turn out to vote against someone or because they don’t like the program or service being offered rather than promoting a particular idea or program,” said Girdler.

Wiles is relying on his record of service to speak for itself. He doesn’t intend to do anything differently for the fall campaign.

“I will run my campaign and let my opponent run his,” he said.

Girdler, on the other hand, is focusing on what he can do to persuade voters to go to the polls.

“I have to present a program and a vision for the people that will give them a reason to turn out to vote,” said Girdler.

The mayor’s race is a nonpartisan election. All registered voters within the city are eligible to vote.

Girdler commended Bullock, BeShears and Bert Minton for a “very clean campaign” that focused on the issues.

A total of 6,486 voters cast ballots for Bullock. BeShears collected 5,212 votes. Minton, former superintendent of the Pulaski County School District, finished a distant third with 1,746 votes.

Wiles was elected mayor in 1998 after serving one term as magistrate under BeShears. The two worked closely on several projects often standing shoulder-to-shoulder at numerous ground-breaking ceremonies and open-house events.

“I believe Darrell was given four terms with the people and I know he appreciated that... he is happy (to have been) judge of this county,” Wiles said.

Looking to the future, he added, “Barty Bullock worked hard. Mr. Bullock has his chance. He has an opportunity to show us what he can do.”

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