My wife and I were bad citizens. We didn’t vote in the most recent primary in Erie. My daughter also didn’t bother to vote for her first time.
Of course, as Republicans, we didn’t have much choice in the primary. The only contested race was for County Executive, and that race was not as colorful as the Democratic race. (It didn’t have as much colorful language either.)
Also, the Republican Party has only been able to come up with one candidate who is willing to run for City Council. Tim Butler seems like a fine fellow, but why the heck should he have to run alone? “Two are better than one, and a three-fold cord is not quickly broken” and all that.
I would have offered myself as a write-in candidate, but I have two jobs already and my wife and children would file a missing person’s report if I took another job.
It’s hard to blame Republicans for not wanting to run for City Council. Erie is overwhelmingly Democratic, and too many voters here won’t even think of crossing party lines. If Satan, Judas Iscariot, Benedict Arnold and Buzz Andrezeski could establish residency in Erie and get nominated on the Democratic ticket for the Erie City Council, they would easily be elected over any Republican candidates, because this city is so overwhelmingly Democratic. (OK, I might be exaggerating about Buzz.)
But it just doesn’t seem right that we let the city be ruled by Democrats, forever, without even putting up a fight. It is important for the city that elections be competitive, because when one party is in power unchallenged, the result will be corruption and laziness. If the Democrats knew that they could lose an election if they screwed up too badly, they would be a better party. Right now, Republicans don’t even get to present any ideas about how the city should be governed. We just sit back and whine.
How can this trend be reversed? I think the answer comes in two parts.
The first point is, that for the foreseeable future, we need candidates who don’t care too much whether they win or lose. Their goal will be to run, to present their ideas to the voters, and to govern well if some miracle happens and they are elected. They should also care about making the job a little easier for the next person who runs.
It seems that the best candidates to do this job would young idealists and recent retirees. Gregg Harris, in his lectures on “The Seasons of Life,” suggests that the 4th season is the “Season of Protection.” In this stage of life, a person has met his own needs, and may “retire” in a way that focuses on the needs of others. Political leadership is an appropriate venue for that.
Secondly, since running for office in Erie is probably a losing proposition for a while, it is important to reduce the sacrifice of time in running for office to a manageable amount.
When the party fails to recruit a full team to run for City Council, Republican voters in Erie should write in candidates during the primary. It takes 250 write-in votes to get a spot on the ballot, so, by doing a small amount of grass roots organizing, we could ensure a full slate of candidates.
The candidates who got in by write in would not have to gather petition signatures in February to get on the primary ballot in May, and then have a long campaign until November. They could know that they were running in May, spend the summer fund-raising and getting ready, and then campaign in a short burst from Labor Day to Election Day in November. The time cost of running would be reduced, and the candidates would have more time to talk about ideas.
One other benefit would be the Republican party leaders would get a good kick in the pants. If Republican voters write in their favorite business or community leader, teacher, banker, pastor, auto mechanic, or blogger, we might get some interesting results. The party might have to deal with some unruly candidates who don’t play by the rules. They might decide that it would be better to work harder and do the recruiting themselves.