Incumbent officeholders hate it when I say this, but that’s too bad. I’ll keep saying it.
Hardly ever do they deserve a free ride to re-election. However, that’s what happens with mind-numbing regularity in many of our local communities.
Let’s look at Randall County, for an example.
I mailer came to my house this week. It’s from Paula Hicks, who’s running for the Precinct 4 constable seat occupied by Chris Johnson. She points out that her race is the only contested one in the county.
Wouldn’t you know it. The only contested race in the county where I live involves the one office I care next to nothing about. We shouldn’t even have constables in Randall County, but we do and this year the office is being contested.
What about the rest of the county offices? They’re all uncontested. Even the tax assessor-collector’s office, which is being vacated by a long-time incumbent, Sharon Hollingsworth, doesn’t have a contested race.
Why don’t candidates jump in? Why don’t incumbents get challenged by those who think they can do a better job?
Are they happy with the job being done? Don’t they want the publicity that goes with seeking public office? Do they fear offending someone?
That isn’t the case north of the county line, in Potter County?
The county attorney, Scott Brumley, has a challenger; the 47th District attorney, Randall Sims, has one too. A county commissioner, Leon Church in Precinct 3, is getting a challenge.
But that’s it. Just three incumbents from the entire slate of candidates have to fight to keep their office.
It’s not that I want all the incumbents to get tossed out on their ears. It’s just that I’ve long thought that incumbents build a public record and they ought to face demands that they defend those records.
The past few Amarillo municipal elections have been lively affairs. This past year saw two incumbent City Council members defeated and a third newcomer elected to a seat that had been vacated. I wasn’t happy with the outcome, but I did enjoy listening to the community debate.
Challengers who rise up from the masses need not be negative. They merely need to say how they intend to perform the duties differently from the individual who’s already in the office. Better? Sure.
I get that incumbents don’t like hearing that from folks like me. They think I sit out here in the peanut gallery just relishing the chance to toss the proverbial rotten tomato at them.
Not true. I just like a robust debate. Especially at the local level, where government — and the people who we choose to run it — make decisions that affect our lives most directly.