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Archive for Saturday, November 5, 1994

SATURDAY COLUMN

November 5, 1994

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Most all adult citizens probably are sick and tired of current election and campaign efforts, whether at the local, state or national levels. They are tired of the charges and countercharges, and they wish there was some way they could be assured the best individuals will be elected to office and, once in office, will perform in a manner consistent with what they pledged and promised during the campaign.

Just as the general citizenry is tired of the campaigning, consider how tired the candidates must be. Again, at the local, state and national levels, the candidates are the ones who end up asking or begging for fiscal contributions to support their election efforts. They knock on thousands of doors seeking support. They are required to make hundreds, if not thousands, of public addresses. And, most candidates must spend considerable time away from their businesses and families.

Being a candidate, particularly a challenger trying to oust an incumbent, carries with it a significant sacrifice.

Added to this, candidates -- both incumbents and challengers -- lose much of their privacy in state and national elections. So far, at local levels, candidates are able to maintain a higher degree of privacy for their families and themselves, but in state and national contests there isn't much that remains private.

Business and personal situations seem to be fair game for the competitors and the media. All warts and blemishes are likely to be exposed. Half-truths or out-and-out falsehoods frequently are used in campaigns, and these require some kind of a response because silence suggests the charges are true.

Given these situations, is it any wonder it is becoming increasingly difficult to encourage properly motivated men and women to agree to be a candidate for most any office? Who wants to lose their privacy? Who wants all aspects of their lives subjected to public scrutiny and who wants to put up with false accusations?

This being the situation, the general citizenry should be quick and enthusiastic in thanking those who have made the sacrifice to be candidates for public office, whether at the city, state or national levels.

It is particularly important to thank those who have lost in their bids for public office. No one enters a race with the idea of losing. However, in every contest, there is going to be a loser, and each of these men and women deserve the thanks and appreciation of all citizens, whether or not they vote for that particular candidate.

The biggest and best way of thanking candidates is to get out and vote next Tuesday. It must be extremely discouraging for someone to do everything possible to try to encourage people to vote, only to have poor voter turnout on Election Day. Again, this would be particularly disappointing for the losing candidate.

He or she would have every reason to say, "I don't know what it requires to get people to take an interest, learn about the issues and to be sufficiently concerned or motivated to go to the polls."

Poor voter turnout is a major disappointment to those running for office -- winners and losers -- and it certainly would be looked upon by potential future candidates as a negative when considering the possibility of seeking office.

Just as soon as the polls close next Tuesday, many will be thinking about the next contests and whether they should consider being a candidate for office, whether as a city commissioner, county commissioner, state legislator, school board member or other state or national office.

Good, smart, honest and properly motivated potential candidates are sure to note the voter turnout at Tuesday's elections and whether there is complacency or enthusiasm among the citizenry of a given district or other political boundary. The types of men and women who probably would be good officeholders, the types of men and women who can elevate the office and who could make a positive difference, are much more likely to decide it isn't worth the effort if the public gives every indication of indifference. This opens the door for those with selfish, questionable motives, and the public ends up the loser.

Think how good and how proud Lawrence and area residents would be Wednesday if reports show higher-than-average voter turnout for a non-presidential election. Lawrence and Douglas County should lead the state, year after year, in every election in the percentage of eligible voters going to the polls. The Kids Voting program has been a big success in Lawrence in encouraging school-age children to learn more about this country's election process, the issues and the candidates. It's unfortunate there isn't an "Adults Voting" program that could get more adults to realize the privilege they have to participate in free elections.

It is interesting to note the lack of political party identification by many of today's candidates for state and national office. In past years, most every Republican candidate would make sure the word "Republican," the initials "GOP" or the party's symbol of an elephant appeared on all campaign literature and advertising. Likewise, Democrats would be sure to include their party's name on all literature, and the Democratic symbol of the donkey would occupy a prominent spot on all advertising.

Not this year. Party identification is missing on a high percentage of campaign advertising, particularly among Democratic candidates. In one way, this might be looked upon as a good development in that voters should be supporting a given candidate for what he or she offers rather than voting merely along party lines. On the other hand, does this development suggest a high number of Democratic candidates want to distance themselves from any identification with or suggestion they support the Clinton political philosophy and the traditional Democratic belief in bigger government intrusion into the lives and activities of all Americans?

We'll find out Tuesday.

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