Shades of color dot the landscape, seemingly at every turn, which can only mean one thing – election time is officially upon us.
Granted, campaign season has been going on off and on over the past few months, but it’s pretty obvious that colorful campaign signs have begun popping up everywhere. Pink signs, yellow signs, white signs and blue signs – it really doesn’t matter what color they are, since carry the same message:
Fancy language aside (“Re-elect John Doe,” “Vote for experience, honesty, integrity,” etc.), that is basically the crux of the message for every single candidate running for office. But the question then becomes, “How?”
How do you make such a decision that has an effect on you and your family, particularly when deciding on positions like a county commissioner, constable, city commissioner and school board trustee?
The answer is different for every person, but there are some things to be cognizant of, I believe. I have never been a straight-ticket voter, those who cast a down ballot vote for all Democratic or Republican candidates. To me, that’s the laziest and most irresponsible choice someone can make.
Since I began voting after turning 18, I often made it a point to read up on candidates or learn about their stances as much as I could. What I figured out rather quickly is that very rarely did a candidate meet every benchmark or expectation that I had.
I also try to see a candidate more than once in a public setting. Why is that? Because I want to know if what I’m hearing is the truth, or a heavily rehearsed version of the truth meant to build a unique connection with potential voters in a short period of time.
It’s a part of politics that I dislike, but one for which I understand the need. There’s a certain local politician whose story about his grandmother that I can recite probably better than the candidate at this point, given the number of times it was told during a prior campaign season.
But look past the folksy charms or relatable stories and instead shift your focus to specifics. Simply saying that you want to right by the taxpayers or voters is meaningless, wouldn’t you say?
It’d be like giving someone your wallet for a month after you and that person shared a story about growing up riding bikes in the street with your friends. You have that in common with the person, but is that enough to give him the keys to your bank account?
The same can be said for candidates running for office – is, say, a free taco, hot dog or some barbecue enough to turn over the keys to your taxpayer dollars? Liking someone doesn’t mean they are the best person for the job, it just means you like that person as an individual.
That’s not to say a good personality is entirely meaningless. On the contrary, some of the most memorable leaders had buckets of charisma that had people captivated and inspired. What I’m saying is that charm should not be the only reason why someone gets your vote.
Make them talk about specifics, and if they don’t question why that is.
For challengers to incumbents, it’s a little trickier, because they can promise the moon and then feign ignorance when they are unable to fulfill said promises. Don’t pledge to fix all the streets, parks, schools or any other problems if you don’t have a plan to do so or at least even try.
By the way, for you commissioners and school board members (particularly those running to unseat an incumbent), remember that you are one vote of several. Don’t write checks that, procedurally, you will never be able to cash.
That being said, if someone says they are going to repair streets without raising your taxes, be wary. Streets are a notoriously expensive part of infrastructure maintenance, as evidenced by the need for a street user fee to pay for some of that work annually. They may not call it a tax, but it would be hard to imagine a situation where an increase in the existing fee is not required.
County roads are trickier because there’s significantly less funding for that work, and it’s hard to come by save for the occasional issuance of debt.
I would also be wary of promises to reduce costs in street maintenance or repairs. The translation to that is potentially lower quality roads that might not last as long, which would result in streets deteriorating faster and needing repairs or reconstruction much sooner.
All this is to say is that before you make your selection at the ballot box, just give some thought to the candidate for whom you are voting. Have they really done enough, said enough to earn your vote? If that sentence gives you pause, then I’d say you have your answer.
Tim Acosta is the editor and publisher of The Kingsville Record. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.