It’s mid-January and the noise you are not hearing is multiple county commission candidates pounding the pavement for someone to sign their ballot petition cards.
You’re not hearing it because, surprising to me at least, there are two county commission seats and they have only one announced candidate each.
In District 2, where Ron Kitchen Jr. says he’s not running again, Diana Finegan is the lone candidate thus far. I’ve known Diana for many years and she’s an excellent candidate.
(Speaking of that, Diana’s campaign kickoff is 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 31 at Crump’s Landing in Homosassa. Check diana4citrus.com for details.)
In District 4, David Lanier opened a campaign account. I don’t know David but look forward to meeting him soon. The incumbent, Scott Carnahan, is hedging whether he’s running again.
Hey, it’s early and we’re hearing some names here and there. But two county commission races six months away from qualifying, with no competition in either?
In case you’re new to these parts, unopposed candidates are automatically elected to office without their names ever appearing on the ballot. Just wanted to mention that.
I’m not a big fan of unopposed candidates in open seats. That means a newcomer is being “elected” to the county commission without ever having to earn a single vote.
Unopposed INCUMBENTS are not uncommon in certain areas: clerk of courts, tax collector, property appraiser, elections supervisor. Sometimes school board incumbents go unopposed.
Someone please correct me on this, but I don’t believe we’ve had a NEW unopposed county commissioner. Jeff Kinnard sort of broke that mold when he was re-elected unopposed two years ago. I considered that a pretty significant feat and chalked it up to the public supporting Kinnard’s way of doing things. He had a four-year track record in office for anyone to challenge, and no one did. One could say he already went through a public vetting.
I frankly wouldn’t know how to interpret handing a pretty significant job to someone without that vetting. I mean, yeah, I guess literally the message is the public is happy with the single candidate because no one else jumped in. But this isn’t about the single candidate.
It’s about the conversation. I keep coming back to that. Get used to it. We need to converse. Not bark. Be nice online and in email. We need to pay attention to what the heck is going on because there is a lot going on. This is how good ideas are born.
Campaigns only come around for about six months every two years, but they jump start and help formulate some of those ideas. Where do you think new commissioners get brainstorms about saving the world? You, that’s who. They pick it up along the campaign trail, formulating relationships with community leaders along the way.
Unopposed candidates can travel a similar trail, speak to the same organizations, but it doesn’t have the same give-and-take. Contested candidates need the public’s vote and the public knows it. Unopposed, different dynamic.
Now, I ain’t no dummy. I get the stinky eye from candidates when I point out the lack of competition. They see it either as an attack on them or I’m trying to stir up trouble for the heck of it. My purpose is neither.
It’s simple. Contested campaigns encourage the conversation. The conversation is critical. It’s the public conversation during Citrus County campaigns that help formulate the ideas new commissioners carry into office, and then spend the next four years building on. No way a new unopposed candidate receives that message with clarity.
I’m an election nerd so you know I’m going to write a lot on this subject. I’ll try to keep the sausage-making to a minimum.
And now a word about that photo. It’s actually one of my favorites, though it has nothing at all to do with the subject. The photo idea I had fell through at the last minute, and that was the best I could do at midnight. Either me and the hawk, or the county logo. And I’m not kidding. Welcome to my glamorous world.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.