We broach a subject today that I’m loath to discuss.
In an odd-number year.
You know how some people get bent out of shape if you start playing Christmas music before Halloween? That’s how I am about politics in an odd-numbered year.
Only candidates, their families and friends think the public wants to talk politics all the time. Actually, the opposite is closer to the truth. We really want nothing to do with politics until it’s necessary.
I’m talking about local politics. I realize a large segment of this community enjoys spending much of their waking hours arguing national politics with strangers.
Nah, that’s not our thing. Our thing is the stuff we have some realistic say in, and that’s why I zero in so much on the County Commission. Boy, especially these days, just about everything they do touches a nerve, and the public is reacting.
Unlike Congress, or even the Legislature, this board is composed of five neighbors. We see these folks in church, the grocery store or at high school football games. When one faces surgery for cancer, we all pray for her because she’s our friend.
Now. I realize the nature of the beast requires presidential candidates to hit the campaign trail much sooner than someone running for County Commission. We have an odd way of nominating candidates for the most important job in the world; they’re sunk if those first few state primaries don’t look good.
So, yeah, those candidates are on the trail all the time. The odd-number year rule doesn’t apply to them.
It’s the locals. The game is slowly changing on the local level where candidates announce during the odd-numbered year, sometimes a full 12 months before ballot qualifying.
Why would they do that? Some reasons:
— Money, of course. The earlier a candidate is signed up at the elections office, the sooner he/she can start collecting money. The wise candidate takes advantage of that lead time and saves most funds for months leading up to the primary or election. Watch any successful campaign. The big money is spent in the final weeks.
— Redundancy. Candidates want their name linked with the office and the earlier they do that, the better.
— Some people test the waters. They open a campaign account, invest a few thousand of their own dollars, have a low-key fundraiser or two, and then make a decision whether to stick it out or not.
Nothing wrong with that. It’s common, actually. The worst that happens is someone gets a real education about the county and finds out what it’s like to run for office. Some of the best community volunteers are political candidates whose campaigns didn’t catch on.
— People announce early because someone or a group told them they should. This never works out well for the candidate because their heart’s not in it. Voters can tell.
It is just flat not a good idea to run for office based on someone else’s opinion. It’s the candidate, and not his/her advisers, who own the campaign. We elect candidates, not their campaign managers.
It’s worse if someone is pushed to run by people with agendas. That’s why we should always feel free to ask candidates about their motives. How’d they get here?
— Incumbents get a pass on the odd-numbered year rule; they're also encouraged to make that call before Jan. 1. Some people in the community will not oppose an incumbent (we’ve seen that happen). Others will run for the express purpose of going up against a specific incumbent (we’ve seen that as well).
Countywide, so far three incumbents have announced: Elections supervisor Maureen “Mo” Baird, District 1 Commissioner Jeff Kinnard, and District 4 School Board member Sandy Counts.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t name the other early candidates so far: Calvin Adams (sheriff), Jesse Rumson (Commission District 5) and Dale Marie Merrill (School Board District 2), Tod Cloud and JJ Grow (both for House District 23). More are sure to follow.
You may be asking: “If you dislike this subject so much, why did you write an entire blog about it?”
No particular reason actually. Just been on my mind.
We’re halfway to an even-numbered year. Then I’ll pay attention.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.