The end of summer means the anticipated arrival of a new season. Of course I am referring to campaign season for local elections. All over our country local election campaigns are in full sprint.
As with autumn leaves, an assortment of campaign mailers and flyers will begin to drop into your mailbox promoting candidate ideals, successes and, in some cases, bashing opponents.
Some are better than others, most are meant to be informative, and all of them follow the same rule: pose with flag, children/family or other elected officials and if possible fire or police representatives. I was once told by one of my political advisors during one of my campaigns that I needed to have a picture with a dog since it “polled really well” ( our family dog had just passed away and I was not going to make one up for a photo op ).
There’s nothing wrong with imagery if it is not fake. It’s a way to establish recognition. But candidates need to present more than awkward unnatural poses to voters – they need real dialogue and transparency.
Connecting with voters means being heard and having conversations.
This is where we as voters must meet the candidates half way. This is especially true if you wince at the amount of money spent on local elections. Unfortunately money stills dominates the ability to get your message out as a candidate but that does not necessarily make that person the better candidate or elected official. We have seen this time and time again here in California.
When candidates canvass or walk districts, be prepared with questions about your city, their vision and their background when they knock on your door. Find out who supports them ( and why ) and if they are close to anyone else on the city council, school board or whatever institutional seat they are running for. We are known for the company we keep, good and bad. Some run as outsiders, new ideas or anti status quo, and some as experienced insiders. We as voters should know why.
Knowing how a candidate thinks on their feet, their views on specific local issues or whether they sound scripted, can benefit your decision in the long run. Ask them about what their plans are and why. Look into the length and service to their community. Did they just move into the school district or city to run for office? Are they involved or participated in community events in the past?
Also, collect the mailers and spend a few minutes reviewing each along with their website. Find out whether or not they will be participating in a candidate forum or debate and learn when and where it is to take place and plan on attending.
Be informed! Learning about a candidate is very important. For one, you now have an educated assessment of which candidate shares your values and vision, concerns and priorities. Secondly, having a connection with someone who will represent you on a school board or city council makes it easier to voice your opinion directly to them on matters of importance in the future. That does not mean you will agree on everything but at least you will have an idea of their vision on issues most important to you.
In California local elections by law are non-partisan. That means that regardless of party or ideology each person stands on their own personal merits. Good or bad. This makes our involvement and education about the candidates crucial.
Sadly, some of us see this as time consuming and futile. Without taking the time to vet candidates the system of government and elections breaks down completely and in favor of candidates with the most money and special interest groups.
Unless we believe that our vote doesn’t count or all politicians are corrupt, so why vote? The answer is simple. Elected officials affect you on a daily basis from regulations governing how you live, the way you drive, where you shop, how your schools educate our kids, what you eat and so on – so it’s worth having a vested interest in knowing who represents you, how they think and why they want the position. I’ve personally seen good and dedicated public servants and unfortunately the lazy and unethically ones too. I’ve seen what can be accomplished when you have people that have a passion for their residents and community.
So as a reminder you have about four more weeks of campaign season to enjoy and just enough time to gain conditional control over who will represent you this election cycle. This will affect your lives for many years to come so why not take a few minutes to partake of one of the most basic constitutional rights our country has to offer. So many have fought and died to protect our ability to choose our representatives and it’s up to us to make informed decisions in their memory.
President Teddy Roosevelt once said: “ In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing at all “.
Arm yourself with information and VOTE NOVEMBER 3rd!
Mario A. Guerra is the former mayor of Downey, president of Independent Cities Association and current treasurer of the California Republican Party. He can be reached at www.marioaguerra.com