Ask any republican the foundation of their political beliefs and you’ll hear fiscal responsibility, reduced taxes, less government regulation, along with pro life, secure borders and second amendment stances. And those will be at the core. You’ll hear talk of honesty, integrity and a better climate for business. It will be wrapped in a bundle called conservatism. And on a national level most of us try to live there. It’s mostly true for voters at the statewide level, too.
Can we honestly say that’s where we are as a group on local and county issues? While the mantra sounds good, the reality is that doesn’t define us well at all.
As a whole, local republicans are more concerned with internal power struggles and gaining positions of perceived power than they are with staying true to a philosophy that is difficult to implement in a mixed political community. That is where political practicality comes into play. Most don’t understand that. And as for the integrity part, if our latest campaign season is any kind of barometer, we fail there big time.
At every state race of import there was at least one candidate whose campaign had no issues with lies and deception. State House races were no exception and we clearly saw what happened when self-perceived political power brokers decided to play fast and loose with the truth.
We seem to have no bench and those who should be responsible for helping to develop that bench are off on their own tangents in runs for office or fighting for control of groups that have no discernible impact on candidates or elections.
Through the years I have seen candidates with no guidance decide to run for congress on a whim with no prior political experience. They seek and then ignore advice when it doesn’t fit their preconceived notion of what that advice should be.
Then there are those who have more realistic goals of local or county office. They decide to run, file and maybe even take the candidate workshop offered by the Supervisor of Elections’ office. After that where do they go? Often it is local political consultants, of which there are few good ones, and even fewer who actually give two hoots about the candidates or races themselves, but for building a record of more wins than losses for their own resumes.
That leads to an environment where candidates check their own judgment for that of the “experts” who may not share the values of the candidate. Candidates believe it’s what they must do in order to win. The bottom line is that the candidate and the candidate alone will be held responsible by the voter for the message delivered during the campaign.
We saw out of area consultants dragging state or even federal issues into county races where the office holder would have little to no impact on the issue being touted. Out of area consultants simply do not know Brevard, its issues or its voters.
For the experienced candidate checking his or her judgment for that of advisors or consultants is a huge mistake. Look no further than the Republican D-4 County Commission race for that example. While there were issues where the incumbent could have been legitimately challenged, the opponent’s campaign, which appeared to be largely directed by those other than the candidate, chose the character assassination route rather than honest debate on issues that may have turned around that 5 point defeat. The power brokers won the battle of “how” and lost the campaign for the challenger who fully embraced something that should have been evident as a bad move.
In some races republicans fielded candidates who knew the talking points, but had little knowledge of how those applied to the positions sought. As a wise man once told our class of perspective professional umpires, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
Who looks out for the good of the candidates and the party in these instances? The answer is nobody. Thus, we are left with candidates reaching out to those who have an agenda that is not the candidate’s.
Until the groups that meet regularly and talk republican values stand up to their responsibilities and understand their roles, candidates will be left flailing on their own and reaching out for help to places that may or may not be able to provide it.
Monthly cheerleading sessions are useless unless they are put into action developing and assisting candidates in understanding political reality with proper perspective on the jobs and races in question.
Where is the leadership of these groups that will understand the opportunity that lies ahead, embrace it and become the go to place for candidates who truly desire to serve our communities with conservative values and the integrity that would make us believe it?
There is a void waiting to be filled. Who will recognize it and step up to the challenge? Until someone does we will continue to see candidates sidetracked by advisors and groups using their campaigns for reasons other than electing the right person for the right reasons.
Candidates must first educate themselves understanding the position sought and their own political philosophy and integrate that into their campaigns. Consultants can be helpful in the timing and type of campaigning, but the message must always be that of the candidate. Anything else results in a mess of mailers and ads that convolute the message and detract from the issues at hand.
The reality check is: if we want better races and conservative wins, we need to groom more grounded candidates who understand the politics beyond the bumper stickers that only outline the basics.