Sunday, July 25, 2004

Letters: Unopposed candidates

Only the wealthy need apply, it seems

I believe the lack of candidates for the various races is very disheartening. I know there are many excellent potential candidates in our area and nationwide.

The problem of getting good people to run is twofold. First, politics has gotten so cutthroat that very few people are interested in exposing themselves and their families to the undying scrutiny of their political foes. I believe the second problem is money. I know very many intelligent and enthusiastic people who would do well in politics, but they lack the funding to get involved.

Look at the presidential election and the two candidates. They are both multimillionaires with bottomless barrels of cash to spend. It is very difficult to get candidates from middle and lower socioeconomic groups to get involved.

Joe Seiler, Colerain Township


People disenchanted

The elective process in our country has become a sham. So-called candidates are no longer representatives of the people, but are representatives of some political machine. Consider how difficult this machinery has made it for a candidate to get on a ballot, at almost every level of elective office.

In 2002, more than a third of the candidates for the Ohio and Kentucky Houses, and Hamilton and Butler county offices, ran unopposed. I think the people have become disenchanted with this process, as witnessed by the abysmal turnout of voters on Election Day.

Perhaps the people should take a page from corporate America (government being, of course, the largest corporation) and demand that Election Day ballots include the choice of "Abstain" in addition to the candidate choice(s). I'll bet you'd see a renewed interest in the elective process, evidenced by a much larger number of voters, and "Abstain" would be a big winner.

Frank Miller, Mason


A self-feeding process

Probably like most people, I am less likely to vote in a race where the candidate is unopposed. I am probably less likely to be informed about that candidate's views, also.

It is, sadly, a self-feeding process: A lack of interest in government reduces the number of candidates, in turn increasing cynicism and further reducing interest.

I think the most obvious need is simply encouragement of greater participation in government both by persons already serving in public life and by private business leaders.

One idea that might help would be to create defined term limits applicable only to persons who won office unopposed. That is, if a candidate is unopposed, that person could not serve more than a single term, or perhaps two terms in succession, unless in the following election there was competition for the position. Hopefully, by limiting terms for unopposed candidates, competition would be promoted over time. But that might have the unintended consequence of encouraging frivolous candidates.

The best idea is probably to promote greater interest in the system by persuasion, but not to change the rules except as a last resort.

James Decker, Pleasant Ridge


Measure of apathy

I believe that the lack of choices for many of the elected positions has a great effect on voter apathy. When so many offices have only one candidate, the choices a voter has to express his wishes are very limited. He or she can vote for the candidate, refuse to vote for those positions, or write in a candidate's name. All of these actions do little or nothing to affect the outcome.

If there were other categories, such as "Against" when there is only one candidate, or "None" in the case of two or more opponents for a position, more voter interest might be generated. Tabulating the votes in those columns could indicate the amount of voter dissatisfaction and lead parties to admit that fresh new candidates need to be encouraged and proposed. If nothing else, the incumbent may realize that the status quo is unacceptable.

Tony Lasrado, West Chester


Not worth the hassle

You ask "Why won't people run for public office?" Simple: Nobody wants the hassle without taking risks. Although our laws say different, in today's society you have to be well-educated, rich and politically well-connected - not to mention having the thickest skin possible to have every single minor flaw exposed.

And this applies especially when you start asking for contributions. When average people ask for money, it is considered illegal panhandling.

Anthony Eversole, Clifton


Change perceptions

We have unopposed races for several reasons: People feel the incumbent should stay because he/she is doing well; because of the "politics" stigma; and because of the cost to the candidate in their businesses, professions and/or their personal lives.

Political parties cannot make someone run for office. Parties can only encourage people to run and promise to provide support to them.

The best way to encourage people to run for office is to change people's perception of politics. Instead of just ridiculing office holders for doing some things wrong, the media should show accurately the good things being done, too. The media should not only keep officials honest by holding them accountable for what they do, but should champion holding public office as an honorable service.

Edward L. Smith Jr., Park Hills


Provide viable choices

When I see an unopposed candidate on the ballot, I do not vote in that section. If we truly want our elected officials to be representative of their constituents, it is incumbent upon both parties to provide viable choices for each open seat. Otherwise we open ourselves to abuse of power.

Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis is a perfect example of this. There has to be someone else in Hamilton County qualified to be sheriff. Leis uses his position as a bully pulpit. Again this year, he is running unopposed and will be re-elected by default. When he is finally ready to relinquish his badge, it will be in the middle of his term so that he may appoint his handpicked replacement, keeping that "good old boys' network" alive and well in Hamilton County.

Patricia A. Grote, Harrison Township


Find a middle ground

I have long felt that the American people are being held prisoner by the two-party political system. Every issue, and nearly every viable candidate, must be pigeonholed as left or right, Democrat or Republican, ultraliberal or neoconservative - and therefore either good or bad. Every idea or thought of any public consequence must be forced toward one extreme or another.

In this environment the extremists of these polarized agendas become the standard-bearers, beckoning us to follow them for the greater good. And follow them we do.

In order to be elected to office, candidates must assume personae like superheroes. The candidate with the coolest costume and most able to convince the voters that they are in hero-character will usually be elected (unless his secret identity is exposed).

Most of us ordinary people really live our lives in the middle ground, somewhere between left and right. The middle ground has become a sort of quasi-reality without legitimacy, where a variety of opinion that doesn't conform to either party exists, but lies mute, and unchampioned. Stuff like the art of compromise, and practical day-to-day decision-making without regard to ideology seems to be passe.

Daniel Kindle, West Chester Township


Review the candidates

I find the preponderance of unopposed candidates on recent ballots very disconcerting. Although I consider myself a fairly well-educated and informed voter, I find myself often wondering just what some of the candidacies are for which I am casting a vote. Perhaps having candidates prepare brief summaries of their platforms and positions on currently important issues that would be made public via the media would give the voters a chance to review the candidates. If one is running unopposed, this "preview" might just prompt a concerned citizen to take a stand and run against someone with whom he/she disagrees on the issues, thereby giving us all more choices at the polls.

Mike McCalmont, Anderson Township


Make informed choices

There is a big problem brewing with unopposed races on the ballots. The lack of choices not only affects individuals' voting habits, but it ultimately shapes democracy in the United States. Fortunately, we still have the freedom to vote or to not vote. But what's disturbing is that registered voters have simply lost interest. Voters and campaigners alike must focus on the root of the problem: our attitude toward the political process.

More and more, our youth feel their message is better served in putting a protest sign in their hand in hopes of making it on the evening news. Adults need to encourage them to get educated about issues and rally their base by finding citizens to support them where they can actually make a difference, in some sort of public office. Unless people decide to focus their efforts on making educated, informed decisions, there will continue to be unopposed races in Cincinnati and around the country.

Teresa Stemann, Pleasant Ridge

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