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Council election season kick-off

The 2006 Ashland City Council elections will likely prove to be one of the more important and hotly contested campaigns in recent years, many familiar with local politics are saying.

Former councilor Jack Hardesty's death in May created a situation in which four of the six seats on the city council will be up for grabs this year. His passing means the seat he held, as well as three regularly scheduled others, will be on this November's ballot.

Because a majority of the council is in play this year, the political makeup of the city's elected leadership could be vastly different come November 8, the day after the election.

Add to this the increased political partisanship and bickering that has made its way into local politics since the last election and it is easy to see why many Ashland residents predict this election will be more contentious than those in years past.

"I think it will be a debate about where we are heading as a community," Martha Bennett, Ashland's new city administrator, said. "There is clearly dissatisfaction in the community. But how that will play out in the election, I don't know."

Though the politics might be amped up, the issues Ashlanders will be selecting their council candidates based on are clear. They are the same issues Ashlanders, and its politicians, have been grappling with both recently and for years: growth, affordable housing and municipal finances, to name just a few.

In an effort to educate Ashland voters on what these issues mean to their lives, the Daily Tidings has created an election primer that identifies some of the issues that candidates will be talking about during the campaign that officially kicked off on Wednesday at 5 p.m., the deadline for registering as a candidate for the council election.

** More information about the candidates and their vision is available in today's printed paper.