For some time now, many across Mississippi and around the nation have questioned whether there is a need for political party designations in local municipal and county races. As a matter of fact, there is a bill in the Mississippi House of Representatives submitted by Rep. Becky Currie (R-Brookhaven) that would create the “Non-partisan County Elections Act.” House Bill 304 would make county offices (such as Supervisor, Sheriff, Chancery Clerk, Tax Assessor, etc.) in Mississippi non-partisan and would prohibit a candidate from campaigning or qualifying for such an office based on part affiliation.
Note: Originally posted at my personal blog here
Taking party politics out of local decision-making would seem to have merit. In theory and in a utopian society such a notion would be ideal. Often, it can be argued, local issues can be negatively impacted by the politics of party on both sides of the spectrum and can cloud the better judgment of some in local elected office. But in the day and time in which we live, the truth is, party does matter, perhaps even more so now locally than ever. Allow me to explain.
As a local elected official, I take my position as a City Councilman seriously. I am on the front lines of the political landscape day in and day out, in the grocery store, the doctor’s office, at football games, and walking down the street. Not a day goes by that no less than a few dozen of my constituents call, email, come by, or stop and talk local, state, or national politics. I cherish every minute of the interaction with each of them. I love being able to help resolve issues within the city or just listen to their thoughts on the condition of our city, state, and nation.
No other political office is quite like a local elected official in that they have the opportunity to live and work with the people they represent every day and then go handle the city’s or county’s business just down the street amongst friends and family. State Representatives, Congressmen and Senators, Governors and Presidents are shielded from doing business amidst the masses. These offices have a cushion of location, if you will. Yes, such close contacts locally can offer their own challenges but the positives definitely outweigh the negatives because local elected officials get to see how their decisions make a difference each and every day. Local elected officials aren’t allowed to lose their foundation and that’s a healthy position for those in governing bodies to be in.
All of this and more is why political party affiliation matters at the local level of government. Who a candidate or local official aligns him or herself with is telling of how they will handle the business of the people in local government from taxation to land use to economic development to fiscal budgeting to law enforcement to a host of other locally sensitive issues. Party affiliation can also point to one’s character and patterns of beliefs in terms of humanity, freedom, liberty, and spirituality.
A local elected official’s party of choice speaks volumes. The voting public is, for the most part, cognizant of what Democrats and Republicans stand for (not so much for Independents or even third party candidates). The voting public generally knows the difference between liberal and conservative policies. They know what party’s ideals of government best align with their own and they want to be able to trust that those ideals are carried out. I would argue that such is true even more so in the local communities where they have chosen to live, work, worship, and play.
It was Thomas Jefferson that said, “That government is best which is closest to the people.” Local elected officials should continue to declare their party affiliation so the public knows by what standard they live their lives and to what ideals they will lead their communities. Party matters.
Frank Corder is a Republican City Councilman from Pascagoula. He blogs at frankcorder.com/blog and you can e-mail him at . Learn more at frankcorder.com.