This is a question that is being debated in Roanoke City. It's an issue that has come up for years and came up again at a Council meeting on Monday--Do we switch to non-partisan local elections?
I can honestly see both sides of this argument. On the one hand, local elections are the back bone of the local party. The City of Salem has non-partisan elections and I believe that has served to weaken the local Republican Committee over the years. Compare that to Roanoke County, where elections are partisan. That has lead to an active party structure on both sides of the aisle.
On the other hand, many people ask, and with good reason, what national issues like abortion and the War have to do with City Council. It's a legitimate question. With local elections, local issues and personalities tend to dominate. We see cross over between parties and to independents. Both David Bowers, running as an independent, and Court Rosen, running as an Democrat, won with (I believe) significant Republican support in the Council elections. Granted, there was no Republicans in the race, but many Republicans were voting on personality and local issues. Party just didn't matter. Of course, Republicans had the option to sit out the election, though I doubt many did.
I have found this to be especially true with young people. They may be fiercely partisan on national politics, but very non-partisan on the local level.
Again, I don't know what the answer is with this one. But it's something we should be talking about.
UPDATE: Roanoke Valley Republicans has pointed out an error in my original post. It seems it's more of a tradition to run as an Independent in Salem. They can run with party affiliation if they choose to. Thanks for setting me straight!
Here is a Salem prospective on the issue: http://roanokevalleyrepublicans.blogspot.com/2008/05/party-affiliation-in-local-elections.html