The primary field

Jun 3, 2012 By Steven R. Peck

Candidates, consider the political option of not sounding like everybody else

The first of Fremont County's 2012 election ballots is set. The filing period for the Aug. 21 primary election ended Friday, and now we know who we'll be voting for -- or not -- in the preliminary races that will establish the general election ballot for Nov. 6.

The primary campaign can be a busy one for voters. They are being asked to sort out more names and sift through more information than they will in November.

For a new candidate trying to identify herself or himself in the field, the challenge can be steep.

Candidates must find a way to distinguish themselves. A good way to do it is to tell voters what you want to do.

That sounds easy enough, doesn't it? Why, then, don't more candidates do it?

Increasingly, elections seem to be framed on what candidates don't want to do. They don't want government to grow. They don't want to spend money. They don't want to permit outside interference. They don't want to allow a certain kind of behavior.

But what do they want to do? Voters would be interested in the answer to that question.

A set of budget regulations can limit spending. A trained dolphin can push the red button meaning "no" time after time, if that's what we want. Pre-existing laws or legal opinions put limits in place for every officer holder. National political issues often don't have relevance to the local office being sought.

So it would be good if a political candidate had a positive agenda covering a few things the candidate would like to accomplish that required creativity, imagination, collaboration, planning, even -- gasp! -- compromise.

The skill of elected service lies not so much in obstruction but in construction -- the building of consensus, of alliances, of cooperation, of comprehension and implementation. It's the identification not just of problems but of opportunities, of not working to stop something, but working to start something as well.

We human beings are not automatons. We were not manufactured at robot factories. But too many of our political candidates seem to act as if they were.

So this summer, as the primary nears, of course be cognizant of the political imperatives related to talking points the national news and commentary media have trained us to repeat. But consider as well the uniqueness of our own community, why you are seeking office, and what you can do that isn't simply run of the mill. Come August, voters will notice.

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