The democratic process works best when the voter has a choice. Too often candidates, usually incumbents, for local or regional positions go unchallenged. We don't have any beef with someone worthy keeping a position but we do think doing so time and again yields stagnation.
If you don't think competitive elections matter, take a look at the county clerk of courts race. Incumbent Barbara Johnson has been there for years without serious competition.
Remember, elected officials only have one boss -- us -- and they only get a review once every four years or so. We need to make it count.
This election cycle, Johnson is being challenged on several fronts and has so far not offered much explanation or vision on how to address the issues. Her worthy opponent, Steven Schaeffer has brought long-simmering concerns to the forefront this campaign season and we need to understand why these have been unaddressed.
The clerk's office has been woefully inadequate for years when it comes to modernizing the record-keeping systems. The antiquity of the current systems and the need to upgrade became apparent more than a generation ago, and denying public access to public information is the net result of bad record-keeping. Steven Schaeffer has worked in the office for the past four years, and he's making an issue of the lack of 21st century technology.
It's about time somebody did.
Schaeffer's other big challenge regards money. Schaeffer said the court is owed $500,000 to $750,000 in back fines, fees and other costs, and if elected, he would get that money collected. Johnson initially dismissed Schaeffer's contention about uncollected funds but then said she was reviewing the options to perhaps hire a collection agency. It's about time.
Schaeffer has brought spark to the clerk's office and attention to the shortcomings of the current office holder. Take a careful look at these two issues, and the incumbent's track record on them, before you go to the polls.
When incumbents go unchallenged in the contests for elected office the big losers are voters, and the winner is complacency.
Schaeffer, just by taking advantage of the platform his candidacy offers him, has injected new ideas into the clerk of courts race, and they have caught on with the taxpayers. Whatever the outcome of this race, those ideas are in the public eye and won't go away easily. Nor should they. They're good ideas and long overdue.
And that alone makes competitive elections worth it.