Few incumbents are being challenged | Rich Elfers

In Sumner, four candidates are running unopposed for the City Council. In Bonney Lake, there are four council positions with no opposition. The Enumclaw School Board has three unopposed seats. Fire District 28 has only one position and it, too, is unopposed. In Black Diamond, two of the four council positions have two candidates competing; my guess is that the issue of the housing developments is still partly the cause.

All in all, there are few contested seats in Enumclaw. Incumbent Councilman Darrel Dickson, local businessman, is facing off against Kimberly Lauk, daughter of State Rep. Chris Hurst.

The question I have for you, my reading audience, is why do so few people decide to run for political office? There are several reasons.

The first reason is that in some areas, like Sumner and Bonney Lake, people are generally happy with how the cities are being run. Many potential candidates probably think, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

For some prospective candidates, one disincentive is that it takes a lot of work to organize and run a political campaign. A successful campaign means that a candidate has to have created a social network of those who support him/her. Not all people have that kind of ability, especially when the goal is self-promotion.

When I ran for re-election to the Enumclaw City Council, I spent a lot of my summer and fall evenings walking the town, doorbelling neighbors and asking them to vote for me.

For those of you who want to lose weight, walking two or three hours a night is an excellent way to shed some pounds.

As I doorbelled, I got an earful of anger with the city government. Elections seem to allow people to vent their rage with government through the incumbents who campaign. That dissatisfaction potentially centered on a candidate probably keeps a lot of people from signing up for government office.

It also takes money and support for local, small-town races. Most of the campaign costs come directly out of the pockets of the contenders. The pay for Enumclaw City Council, for instance, is $3,900 a year. The difficulty of raising money in nonpartisan races undoubtedly keeps some from throwing their hat into the ring.

Being a member of a political party gives a potential candidate not only funds, but also people who will pound signs into the ground and ring doorbells. In nonpartisan races, like city council or fire commissioner, that option is more limited, deterring some from running.

Another reason people don’t run for office is because conflict is part of the job description. Few people enjoy unpleasantness and many would rather avoid it if possible.

Being in elected office does give a big emotional rush. It also gave me nights when I woke up at 2 in the morning thinking about the decisions I made and the words I had publically spoken. Being an elected politician is often not good for a restful night’s sleep. High stress probably keeps some from running.

Running for political office is tough, but it’s actually a lot tougher to be in office, struggling with decisions that will have such a big, long-term influence on the community or district. Becoming an elected is not for sissies. Most incumbents who run fear losing more than they expect to win. Losing is humiliating.

Yes, there are a lot of reasons not to run for political office, but sustaining our democracy requires that kind of sacrifice.