Local Commentary

The Little City Weed

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Why the outrage against endorsements in local political campaigns? Endorsements from local civic groups helps moor independent candidates to recognizable political values, provides probative information to voters, and shines much needed sunlight in local elections which have become tiny fetid pools of treacherous nastiness.  Endorsements sounds like just the cure we need here in the shire.

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Why the outrage against endorsements in local political campaigns? Endorsements from local civic groups helps moor independent candidates to recognizable political values, provides probative information to voters, and shines much needed sunlight in local elections which have become tiny fetid pools of treacherous nastiness.  Endorsements sounds like just the cure we need here in the shire.

The current vested class of political insiders, however, reacts poorly to the idea of endorsements from local civic groups. It puzzles me why the idea is not better received; particularly among those who support preserving nonpartisan local elections where more voters participate.

The column last week discussed the facts Republicans have been claiming credit for endorsing and electing two of our city council candidates.  The main point of the column, lost in the ensuing echo chamber of alarmingly dissociative behavior, was to question why our local Democrats had not thought to do the same.

Republicans claim to have endorsed candidates for city council. So what? Our local Republican committee is not some epicenter of evilness … that is VPIS (Ha! Just kidding fellers; wanted to see if you were still paying attention).

Seriously, our friends and neighbors who volunteer for the local political committees are informed, experienced, community activists with a point of view. A responsible public endorsement offered to candidates who sought it would be helpful information. Endorsements from local partisan committees in nonpartisan local elections are encouraged by the Hatch Act, the Virginia State Board of Elections, and both state political parties. Endorsements, not to be mistaken with partisan nominations of candidates, are the ideal middle path for a community which is small and wants to preserve nonpartisan elections where more citizens have a say in local government.

The lack of endorsements in Falls Church City elections by any local group, except the CBC organization, seems oddly stunted to me. A more open local election system, where candidates for council seek endorsements from multiple civic organizations seems like a healthy thing.  Imagine a council campaign held in November with seventy percent voter turnout and a slew of independent candidates campaigning by seeking and publicizing endorsements from a variety of civic groups with ties to political, environmental, historical, social, education, local business, housing, historical preservation, transportation, and/or community service issues.

A more wide open endorsement process would also help moor notoriously hard to track independent local candidates who too often confuse the terms “independent” with “expedient.”

Our current nonpartisan local election system is today a tightly controlled closed loop system which excludes too many voters and encourages stealth political shenanigans. Twenty-four percent turnout in a city which averages close to seventy percent turnout in off presidential year elections, is not just a shameful aberration … it is a symptom of a broken local election system.

Our broken local election system can be healed by shifting power from tin can political bosses and their vapid “independent” candidates to the voters. Moving elections to November and encouraging broad use of endorsements from civic groups are a good start.

 


Michael Gardner is a quixotic citizen and founder of the Blueweeds community blog.