HomeOpinionOPINION: Let’s stop hiding local candidates’ political party

OPINION: Let’s stop hiding local candidates’ political party

By Martin King

Guest columnist

As an inaugural Jackson Post reader/subscriber, I appreciate its thorough and unbiased news and sports coverage of Jackson and Madison County. I usually agree with the Post’s editorials, but I’m afraid I found myself in disagreement with the March 16 column urging Tennessee legislators to “vote no on partisan municipal elections.”

I agree with several of Shields’ statements including:

  • Political parties are fundamentally different – Democrats generally favor more and bigger government, and Republicans want smaller, more fiscally conservative government.
  • Voters need to become more knowledgeable about political candidates.
  • And, the best way to learn about local government and candidates is to read The Post.

However, I disagree with the editor’s conclusion that only state and national issues like abortion, marriage equality, and the Second Amendment merit partisan elections. In fact, the issues that affect each of us most often and most frequently are local issues like the role of city government, taxes and worldview and philosophy of government. Following are five reasons city elections should identify candidates’ political affiliation:

1. Political parties are already involved in city elections, but their involvement and support of candidates is behind-the-scenes. We the voters don’t know what the parties are doing and who they’re supporting. Let’s bring the party identification and support into the light so voters can know the government philosophy endorsed by each candidate.

2. Allowing local candidates to identify their political party – or to run as an independent – brings city elections in-line with federal, state, county, and even school board elections. Why should voters in city elections be the only ones who don’t know what candidates believe about the role of government and which party is supporting them?

3. If a city is composed primarily of conservatives or liberals, the city government should reflect those basic beliefs about government philosophy. Conservative residents believe in smaller government, self-reliance, personal freedom, and lower taxes, and their local government should reflect those beliefs.

4. Knowing candidates’ political affiliation helps low-interest, low knowledge, and last minute voters better understand which candidates might best reflect their own political philosophies. Many people don’t have or take the time to study every local candidate every election, so at least knowing their political party helps elect a local government most in-line with the voters’ preferences.

5. A research study in Virginia showed that knowing candidates’ political affiliation increases voter turnout, particularly among minority voters. Certainly, increasing voter turnout is a goal of all parties.

Of course, knowing candidates’ political affiliation doesn’t mean voters will only support candidates of their preferred party. I know very few people who wouldn’t agree that they intend to vote for the best candidate, not the party. If a local incumbent has done a good job serving the people, they may warrant re-election, regardless of party affiliation. And, if a non-incumbent can better articulate a better plan for local government, they should garner support. But why can’t the voters know which party’s philosophy about the role of government they most agree with, and which party is most likely supporting their candidacy?

I urge our Jackson and Madison County state legislative representatives to strongly support legislation that would bring Tennessee municipal elections in-line with all other local, state and federal elections. Let’s quit hiding the political affiliation and leanings of local political candidates.

Martin King is a guest columnist and a former journalist in other areas of the country. The Jackson Post’s opinion/editorial page is meant to help launch public discussion of local issues or allow local people to discuss national or statewide issues. To join the discussion, send a guest column or letter to the editor to brandon@jacksonpost.news. Submissions for a specific week’s print edition need to be sent by Monday night. Sending does not guarantee publication that week as that is based on space availability.

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