It is now officially election year. In just a few weeks, candidates for office will file for a host of state and county offices.
The attentive listener may notice a rather interesting refrain emanating from their local politician. It goes as follows: “I sure hope I don’t have an opponent this year. It would be nice to have a free pass this time.”
Many incumbent politicians hate and fear this time of year! They fear that at any moment an aggressive challenger will emerge, attract enough votes to win “their” office, and send them back to the real world.
As the reader might imagine, due to my proximity to political figures, I have heard this sentiment expressed multiple times over the years. It’s easy to sympathize with this wish. After all, who wants to go through a grueling campaign where every past vote and action comes under scrutiny?
But, after observing how this air of entitlement tends to co-opt elected officials, I have lost much of that sympathy. In fact, when I hear a politician wish for an easy victory without an opponent, I start to suspect that this is the person who needs some competition. This politician has forgotten that holding office is a temporary time of service — not a lifelong entitlement. He thinks he has a right to the job and doesn’t want the healthy scrutiny of the electoral process.
Imagine the private-sector employee who never had to worry about his boss showing up and grading his performance.
Without a contested election, the boss/taxpayer never has the opportunity to grade the employee/politician.
Just as the hard working employee doesn’t fear his boss’ arrival so should the conscientious elected official welcome the results of the ballot box.
Politicians become more responsible to the electorate when they face competition in every election cycle. Those who routinely get a free pass are significantly more susceptible to representing big government bureaucracy rather than the values of the electorate.
Consider the actions of a politician who wanted to pass an unnecessary tax increase. He cautiously layed the groundwork for the tax increase.
Then election year rolled around.
And, an opposition candidate emerged!
The politician seemed to suddenly care not at all about the tax increase.
Self preservation kicked in and unnecessary tax increases were quickly pushed aside as the contested election seemingly forced the politician into a “come to Jesus” moment.
A few months after the election, the conversion experience wore off, and the politician once again became lazy and comfortable. He returned to his quest to take more of your hard-earned money.
I think all politicians need a “come to Jesus” moment at least once every two years. It’s never good when the electorate allows them a free pass. Without an opponent and an occasional conversion experience, the politician mistakenly assumes the office has become his entitlement and he can do whatever he wants, regardless of past promises or the conflicting values of the electorate.
Two years ago, far too many politicians were given that free pass. There is an absolute calling for those who will run for office and hold incumbents to account.
Do you hear this calling?
If so, you may file for office on April 9, 10 or 11. Candidates for county offices file at their county election board and candidates for state office file at the state Capitol. The state election board website provides the specifics at ok.gov/elections.
REP. JASON MURPHEY, R-Guthrie, represents House District 31, which encompasses all of Logan County and a portion of northern Edmond. He may be reached via email at email@example.com.