Opinion

Union seeking more influence | Rich Elfers

Why does it appear that unions and political parties are starting to support candidates for nonpartisan races? Why would I be thinking that, you might ask?

During the past few months I have had conversations with candidates who are running for local office in Enumclaw. In two cases these candidates mentioned being pursued or encouraged to run for local office by either unions, which usually support Democrats, or the Republican Party.

The candidates were offered support and financing to run for Enumclaw City Council. This seems to be a strange turn of events since the offices these candidates are seeking are nonpartisan. Nonpartisan means that the issues involved – repairing streets, maintaining water and sewer treatment service – are not political issues. They’re human issues. A Democrat could do as well as a Republican with these questions.

Sewer treatment and water quality and supply have no political spin, at least in my way of thinking – at least until now.  Why would unions be offering to help someone who is running for the city council? What do they stand to gain? Why would the Republicans want to endorse someone for a local office?

I’ve thought about this new trend and have come to the conclusion that both groups have too much time on their hands or more money than they know what to do with.

By supporting candidates in nonpartisan races, they are upping the ante to run for local government. If a political party or political action committee supports candidates, they are more likely to win their race.

Why, you might ask?  The reason is that some voters, upon seeing a nonpartisan candidate identified either as a D or an R, will automatically vote for or against that person. It’s like a dog seeing a piece of meat and salivating in response. Those kind of people are conditioned to vote only for Ds or Rs. Thinking is not part of the equation. Having that party edge would increase that candidate’s chances of winning by having a block of voters already committed to them.

The PACs or political parties would also add physical support for a candidate. They could set up signs and hand out voter information.  They could be used to wave the candidate’s signs on street corners. Party money would buy ads in local papers. A political party’s or PAC backing a candidate would add a tremendous advantage.

The problem for me in this apparent new trend is that politics would be reaching down to local government where it has not resided before. All of a sudden sewer pipes and garbage rates might become areas of partisan bickering. Think the U.S. Congress – do you want partisan gridlock over sewer rate hikes?  Can you hear a Republican chant “No new taxes!”?  Can you hear Democrats screaming over wages or insurance costs for city workers? Will that kind of political pressure raise or lower your taxes?

I’m glad to see there is more interest in running for public office. I’m not happy to see nonpartisan races turning political. I’d prefer to have our voters vote for candidates based upon their competency, not their party affiliation. Hot button social issues should not be a part of small-town local government.

I hope I’m wrong, but it seems that both the Democrats and the Republicans are involved in “mission creep.”  They appear to be trying to politicize nonpartisan races to increase their power and influence. I know they have that right under First Amendment free speech rights. However, I don’t believe partisan politics should be supporting candidates for nonpartisan races and I don’t believe this new approach will, in the long run, be good for America or for the small towns in which we live.

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