A Box of Soap

Last time I wrote here about the flood of money that is drowning out any remaining citizens’ voice in federal elections. This week I’m wondering what it would take to learn more about the candidates running for the Oregon House District 25 seat. Elections at the most local level have a different set of problems from the overheated, hyper-expensive federal election campaigns. It’s surprising how little we’ve heard from the three candidates hoping to win this seat. The primary is May 20, only a few weeks from now. Only the Republican nomination is contested, but it would be good to know more about everybody.

There is a general sense that whatever we do makes little difference in choosing and electing candidates for federal elections. Those candidates come from somewhere. If we take seriously and pay attention to who we elect in local and city elections, maybe that judiciously chosen candidate will go on to become a well chosen U.S. House of Representatives candidate.

So far the only source of information I have found about these candidates is their websites, and the quantity and location of their lawn signs. They all say they are out knocking on doors and meeting voters—that is a very good way to introduce themselves.

The websites are like all political websites. I don’t think it would be too strong to say that they are filled with platitudes —“support strong local economy,” “burdensome regulations,” “hold government accountable,” “evaluate all options,” “provide world class education,” “build strong workforce,”etc. The devil is, and always will be, in the details. I’ve never heard a candidate anywhere, anytime say he was against any of those laudable goals. If we so strongly agree on how to move the country ahead, why are we still so stubbornly mired?

I think it’s my fault we don’t know more about the District 25 hopefuls. And your fault. I’m retired and could have devoted some time trying to set up a debate or two. Anyone could have done that. Keizer has many civic organizations and local businesses that could sponsor a debate, some that could even provide a space. A real debate, where candidates delineate their differences and submit themselves to unscripted questions, gets behind the campaign fascia and reveals a little about personal philosophy and personality. Like a test drive. The candidates need a public forum. If we cared enough, it would happen. If we get to May 20 without ever learning any more about our candidates it is not their fault alone.

Our choice in this election affects our lives and our future. It’s a decision we ought to be willing to research thoroughly. Hopefully the endless barrage of misleading and negative ads common to federal election campaigns have not completely tuned us out to local elections. This is the election where, if we pay attention, we are rewarded with office holders we know something about.

(Don Vowell lives in Keizer. He gets on his soapbox regularly in the Keizertimes.)