Contested elections a necessity in local politics

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Hey, Harvey County Democratic Party, how about you give people a choice when they vote?
If you read last week’s election story, you’ll notice that the vast majority of our incumbents will not have to defend their records, explain their actions or campaign and listen to constituents, because they’re running completely unopposed.
We’re not saying any of our current elected officials are doing a bad job. We appreciate a good number of them. We’d have said the same thing about the Republican Party should it have failed to field any candidates. What we are saying though is in a democracy choices between candidates ensure elected officials remain responsive to the people, as they know the people can always move a different direction, so they should choose. It’s the only way we elect officials representative of the communities they serve.
In all but one of our local races, the Harvey County Democratic party didn’t field a candidate.
No county commission candidates, sheriff candidates, treasurer candidates, District Attorney candidates, nothing.
Just Tim Hodge, who runs his own independent Hodge organization of walking and voter sign up.
It’s a development that has confused us.
Harvey County isn’t a Western Kansas county that is 95 percent registered Republicans. Democrats have won from time to time, for instance T. Walton, the long-time former Sheriff. Or, Tim Hodge.
The County Commission seat that serves the north end of Newton and North Newton would have likely been in play should they have fielded a decent candidate, as Hodge carried nearly every single precinct in that district.
The Democratic Party hosted a large fundraiser with Richard Crowson early this year that we wrote about. It had a large attendance, so there should have been a bit of money for local candidates.
That money would at least probably make more of an impact in Harvey County than funneled into and statewide races.
There’s a growing number of registered Democrats and Independents in this county and we’re sure they have plenty of issues they’d like to see addressed. However, there’s no chance for them to even push issues on a local level with no candidates to support. All the Camp Hawk folks, so incensed at the County Commission a few years back. There would have been a seat, if not to run to win. The people pushing for more investment in bike paths? Perhaps that would have been a good issue to run for commission on.
We saw a ground swell of discussion in progressive circles about reforming a legal system to make people of color safer. You know how you do that, progressive people? Elect people with similar policies into our legal system. Or, at least field candidates so these issues could be debated.
We hold debates. We like to hold debates. We do so because we like to see important community issues discussed by candidates and also to have a way to make sure they do what they promised voters. Those won’t happen.
Uncontested elections in general are a negative for a community. They encourage complacency, the stagnation of ideas and at the very worst, invulnerability.
If you look at our national legislature for instance, the more radical the elected official, the safer their district, whether a Republican or a Democrat.
Our elected officials should perform their duties always with the idea that if they don’t do their job to the best of their abilities, they will be replaced.
That’s not possible with many local races, this year, thanks to a lack of candidates. Organization issues are something many long-time Democrats have grown to expect at the national level. But locally, at least, that’s something that should be correctable with a bit more effort.

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