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Dead guy continues to lead in Des Moines while living candidate demands changes

A dead guy continues to hold an overwhelming lead in a race in Des Moines. And the living candidate who wants the job says he’s pretty frustrated with the whole thing.

Retired school teacher Jim Langston has long been active in the community. He organizes summer concerts as a member of the Des Moines Arts Commission, serves as a precinct committee officer with the 33rd legislative district Democrats, and gives tours at the Des Moines Historical Museum.

So earlier this year, the 70-year-old decided to run for a spot as commissioner with King County Water District Number 2.

He knew the deadline to get on the ballot had already passed by the time he made his decision and he’d have to run as a write-in candidate. But Langston never expected what he’d be told when he went to the election office to file.

“She said ‘Well, Mr. Rosentangle just passed away last evening,'” Langston recounts. “My mouth dropped open. I said I would like to have beat him in an election but I wouldn’t want anyone dead.”

Candidate John Rosentangle died unexpectedly in August. But his death came after the deadline to change the ballot or voters guide, so he was the only candidate listed.

Langston tried to get the word out to the 2109 voters in the water district, printing flyers announcing his candidacy and Rosentangle’s death.

“I went around to every household. In the condos where I didn’t know someone who lived there they posted my flyers next to the mailboxes so they would know that way.”

It didn’t make a difference. As of Thursday evening, the deceased Rosentangle had an overwhelming 73 to 27 percent lead over Langston and other living write-in candidates.

He says it’s ridiculous election officials had no way to notify voters of Rosentangle’s death, even on the website.

“I find it hard to believe that on August 13th when I filed that in fact, the ballots and voters guide had been printed. I don’t think so.”

Langston could still end up with the seat. The other members of the water board will appoint a commissioner within 90 days after the race is certified.

Regardless, he says he’s contacting state and county officials to lobby for changes to the rules so voters know when a candidate is dead.

“Hopefully, they’ll draw up some kind of program or change to the law so this can’t happen to anyone else. And that’s my goal.”

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