Guest Column: Elections don’t always make perfect sense
Until you’ve run for elected office, you can’t imagine the wear and tear experienced by candidates, their family, and friends. Even in these days of far-reaching technological advances, running for office is non-stop campaigning since someone somewhere monitors every breath you take. All too often, “monitoring” and “accurately reporting” are not necessarily the same thing, but that’s politics.
People who’ve never met you are quick to make assumptions about your character and intellect based almost entirely on your political party affiliation. As the Republican candidate for Summit County Treasurer, I was without question in the minds of some a Bush-loving warmonger and supporter of deficit spending with the economic I.Q. of iodized salt.
I found this fascinating since I can’t remember the last time a County Treasurer had anything to do with national public policy decisions. Saying that all Republicans support Bush administration policies is as asinine as saying that all Democrats are Obama fans. Why then did Hillary get so many votes?
There were plenty of surprises during the campaign. I was amazed at the number of people who didn’t know that the County Treasurer is elected. One voter asked me why I was knocking on doors in the neighborhoods when my time would be better spent lobbying the County Commissioners to hire me for the job. I found that I was a part-time campaigner and part-time civics instructor as I made my way through the County.
We all have heard that running against incumbent office holders is an uphill battle, especially in local elections. My opponent wasn’t the incumbent Treasurer, but he was a term-limited County Commissioner who had held that office for ten years, making this an uphill battle since some people mistakenly thought that County Commissioners appointed County Treasurers, apparently.
This led to the most devastating surprise of the campaign when a prominent Summit County citizen told me he would be voting for my opponent, not because he was more qualified, but because he would do far less damage as a County Treasurer than he could as a County Commissioner. How does one respond to that?
As a candidate, you expect that some people will tell lies about you because, apparently, that’s just part of politics. I was always curious about the sources of those allegations and invariably, it would be someone who heard something from someone who heard something from someone, who happened to be campaigning for my opponent. It’s more than a little disconcerting at the time it’s happening, especially for family members and friends who know better.
The experience helped me to empathize with Obama and Clinton, who soldiered through way more of that than I had to do. It seems to me that campaigns could be a lot shorter if we’d stop doing that while spending more time talking about solving the problems at hand.
All in all, this experience left me with far more respect for people willing to put themselves out there as candidates. Whether you agree with them or not, their willingness to put forth the effort knowing that its not easy, is commendable. With any luck, they’ll spend more time wrestling with the challenges we face than they’ll spend name-calling.
My greatest hope is that campaigns will one day focus on “next actions” that constructively address the issues at hand while leaving the schoolyard pranks to children. Perhaps I should change my name to Jack Pollyanna.
Jack Taylor is a local facilitator and mediator with Taylored Solutions LLC. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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