Is an elected official still an elected official if he or she runs unopposed? Of course that person is.
A candidate may be running unopposed for a number of reasons. An incumbent might be viewed as someone who served so well that the opposition can’t come up with a competitive candidate or doesn’t feel the need to; those who may be qualified for the position and would like to run may not have the time needed to properly serve their constituents; or viable candidates might be turned off at the prospect of going through the public wringer to the point where the criticism affects not only their public life, but their private life as well.
When looking at local elections, it’s easy to point to the latter as the reason that dwells in the minds of many quality people who don’t throw their hats in the ring.
Whether the candidate is considered good or not so good, it takes a tremendous amount of courage to serve – and it takes more than courage to be a good public servant. If you have the knowledge, ability, courage and desire to serve the community, you shouldn’t have to fear unwarranted personal attacks by community malcontents who don’t have the knowledge, ability, courage and desire to serve.
The electorate needs to remember to vet candidates before the ballots are cast. The alternative is to vet them after they become elected officials – not a really good idea.
One of the tools voters use is weighing the negative versus the positive campaigns. Party hacks, too often aided by haters and uber-supporters, launch attacks about how bad their opponent is. The campaigns tend to be so far from center that their axis of life leaves them leaning so far left or right that they can’t see, understand or be willing to compromise on the views closer to the hub of humanity. Some pundits call it the “my way or the highway” mentality.
The positive campaigner, and supporters, would rather dwell on the qualities of a candidate. Instead of bashing the opposition or telling voters why the opponent should be feared, they take the high road to “sell” their candidate – and a candidate with a good reputation, record of community service and other desirable qualifications is an easy sell to local voters. After all, at the local level, voters tend to know the most about their candidates. They see them at church, school functions, while shopping, at sporting events and other community affairs. Many of them know who and what you are.
Wouldn’t it be great if all candidates and supporters took the high road and peddled hope instead of hate, faith instead of fear, promise instead of panic and community unity instead of neighborhood division?
Local officials get paid little to take on the responsibilities of governing the communities they and their neighbors live in. Most do it because they believe they can make a difference. In the future, when you agree with a local elected official, walk up to them, shake their hand and tell them so. In fact, it could help with their future decisions.
When we disagree with a local elected official, we should let them know that as well, in a manner that you would expect to be approached when in disagreement with others. To rant and rave only helps to present you in an unflattering light.
It also prevents you from getting your point across to those who really count – the voters and residents of our local communities.