I suppose my idealism takes me off the reservation a little too often, but with the primary for 2016 just 13 months away, we’re starting to see candidates announce. So of course that got me thinking…
I will preface with the fact that I am of the belief that incumbents should be challenged. Often. The good ones and the bad ones. Primary challenges ensure that our elected officials hold to the values of their district. Heck, it just puts elected officials IN the district to have interaction with their constituents – something some of them wouldn’t do otherwise.
We gripe and groan after every controversial vote and complain that “S/He should go home!” “[X] needs a primary!” We’ve seen the episode but the season finale is always the same: when a small town, no-name candidate announces, we gawk and point fingers at their unprofessionalism, their lack of funds, or the small to non-existent campaign team.
It just so happens that nine times out of ten, it is the no-name political junkie who announces a challenge. Our more “seasoned” candidates will wait for an open seat, so these primary challenges for our bigger incumbents always bring about a different breed. They’re Joe-Schmoe who has been enraged in his day-to-day for the last 10 years and finally wants to do something about it.
Because our seats were created for the little people.
This happens a lot. We get them from city council to U.S. Senate but the higher offices seems to make ‘looking legitimate’ a whole lot harder because of the whole fundraising thing. In 2013, running for U.S. Senate cost, on average, $10,476,451. That’s $14,351 per day in spending. It actually cost Elizabeth Warren over $42 million to defeat Scott Brown. Additionally, House candidates who won in 2012 raked in an average of $1,689,580 in campaign contributions. That’s about $2,315 each day.
Here in Georgia, we have people spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on campaigns for State Senate, a position that pays less than $25,000 per year. We see the same for county commission seats and even our city council and mayoral races force fundraising numbers over what many people are paid in a year. The burden to run for office is high and it’s also become the ‘legitimacy ranking.’
But our seats were created for the little people.
When I was working on a campaign in the 12th district, the primary discussion for the Republican primary focused on 4 candidates, but there were actually 5. A lady by the name of Diane Vann campaigned across the entire district. She was everywhere and worked really hard with the resources she had. She said some things that were a little kooky and she didn’t have much money at all, but she ran for Congress because she wanted to run for Congress and she believed the message she was sharing was the right one.
Why do we not support this? We complain about incumbents. Congress – and many of our elected officials all the way down to city council – have devastatingly low approval ratings. We want someone who will stand up and talk about the issues. We want someone new. We expect others to do what we ourselves are unwilling to do. And then when that person shows up, we slam the ‘You don’t belong here!’ door in their face.
I’m not saying that every candidate with a lot of money is bad. That certainly isn’t the case. And I’m also not saying we HAVE to support the grassroots candidate because sometimes the person serving is already doing a great job. I’m not naive enough to think that everyone is qualified to serve, either.
What I am saying is that people run for office because they believe they are serving a purpose. If someones kooky campaign gets a few new people involved in the game of politics, shouldn’t we support that?
Our seats were created for the little people.