It is difficult to break old habits. Our old civic habits were to engage most in the biggest elections. At the door, folks say that they used to only vote for presidents and maybe gubernatorial races. But there’s been a flip and we need to pay close attention. We can see, now more than ever, that while some of the big names know how to make a splash in the media, it’s lower level offices that hold the power and everyday folks are noticing. We are seeing more engagement in our school board races, county positions, city councils, and Legislative races and we’ve been hearing about them more as well. These campaigns, groups and issues are coming to the fore and it’s time to engage with them, rather than simply watch from the outside. It’s not our normal course of action, but it’s a necessary one.
There’s been quite a bit of hub-bub, lately, regarding the governor’s race and the legislative session is nearly over. It is important to remember that the legislative body puts policy on the governor’s desk. If none of the candidates in the headlines resonate with you, look down the ballot. Look at other races, in fact, start at the bottom because these are the seats that affect our everyday lives and policies. There are 35 senate seats and 70 house seats, along with many county roles and ballot initiatives that need and deserve our attention.
Many folks are frustrated with the drama and the circus that we see as primaries approach. We can change that, we can focus on electing people in our city councils, school boards, counties and legislature who embody our values, are doing the work and will focus on everyday, real life issues. Idahoans deserve leaders at every level who are transparent, consistent and focused on them.
The job of all public servants is to make a difference in their community, to represent the people, not to get re-elected. My guess is, if you’re doing a good job, you’ll get re-elected, but you should have to work for it, and have to truly represent everyday folks and our local issues.
We need school boards who focus on literacy rates, graduation rates, health and safety of our staff and students. We need counties who focus on infrastructure. We need legislators who are concerned with making our state livable for its locals and making wise fiscal investments in our future as a state. We need more everyday folks representing our everyday interests and that happens from the bottom up. So instead of focusing energy on the top of the ticket, let’s all do our homework, really get to know candidates at every level.
Let’s elect people who are looking to do the work of Idahoans and who will hold those higher offices accountable for all of us. If we want a government that is for the people, by the people, then we need to stop putting the fate of our issues in the hands of single individuals in the highest offices. We need to stop leaning on the Hail Mary shot in the final 30 seconds of the game. We must build a strong team, raise each other up, defend our values and focus our sights on seats all along the way to the top.
The power of local government is strong and should be strong, and the power of the voter is even stronger – all the way up the ballot!