Saturday, November 04, 2006

Ave Atque Vale

Hail and Farewell. The standard Roman greeting. It came to mind when I was casting around for a title to this post. A race is not a race if only one person is running. You need at least two for that. In too many political races, especially in gerrymandered districts or areas with one-party rule, voters go the polls with no choice at all. And what’s the point of that?

Haven’t we all seen what happens when there’s no real competition? The candidate can’t be bothered to make campaign appearances, won’t answer questions, and often barely makes an effort. After all, what are the voters going to do? There have been times when I have left the ballot blank on one race or another, just out of protest. My one choice has been so lackluster or so lackadaisical that I just couldn’t bring myself to vote for them. The “none of the above” movement ( is a partial answer to this. You can write in “none of the above” or any other name you want. But that is only a stopgap measure.

In an ideal world each political race would have at least two worthy candidates so voters have a real choice. This requires, however, that someone be willing to run, a draining thankless task, knowing there is little chance they will win, especially against a popular incumbent. They can’t raise much money because no one wants political contributions to go to waste. But, like understudies in a theatrical performance, they fill a vital role. Every now and then there is a George Allen or Mark Foley situation where the expected winner fumbles and is out of the game or injured and you want someone there who can step in. If only one candidate is on the ballot or the other choice is unacceptable and the frontrunner is suddenly no longer viable for whatever reason, what do you do? The party comes up with a substitute at the last minute and that seldom works out well.

Thus I would like to salute the Lou Guerra, Jr.’s of the world. Guerra is a Republican running against incumbent Democrat Josh Shapiro for the 153rd state house district. He has virtually no chance of winning against the popular and well-funded Shapiro but it isn’t because there is anything objectionable about him. His resume is well-suited for a candidate. Remove Shapiro from the equation and he might have a shot. But his presence on the ballot gives voters in that district a choice. If they vote for Shapiro they do so knowing they had an option. Republicans can vote for Guerra with a clear conscience, knowing he could actually do the job.

Lou Guerra, Jr., and other candidates running long shot races provide a valuable service to the electorate. You can walk into the voting booth and pull a lever or push a button, with a real choice. These hard working people deserve our thanks. Without them our democracy would be a democracy in name only.


EB said...

That's an hornorable post. I'm in a less politically ecumenical mindset right now, personally. When the politics of Republican extremism of the last 15 years have been tampered down, I hope I'll be calmer.

We have a Republican judge of elections whom I like and respect very much. There. I'll say that.

But for the record, I really like Josh Shapiro.

Gort said...

Anyone who runs for office deserves our thanks. To offer yourself for office is a brave act knowing what you and your family will be subjected to. It's always good to have a choice.