If you weren’t carefully looking in the April 16th edition of our local paper, the Central Virginian, you might have missed an official call for nominating Republican candidates for local office. While such calls used to be routine affairs for both parties, there are indications that this is changing.
Except for school board candidates who are constitutionally prohibited from having any party affiliations, both parties can nominate their own candidates for every other local office. And thus far some candidates are not wasting any time getting a head start; Rusty McGuire, and now Mike Silberman who is running against Ashland Fortune for Sheriff.
Silberman announced his candidacy in a press release in last weeks Charlottesville Daily Progress, and is apparently trying to give the impression that he’s converted into a Republican, convinced that this newfound affiliation will allow him to chip away at Fortune’s strong base within the Democratic African American community, while gaining the support of local conservatives who would not otherwise give him the time of the day.
Several local officials who are running for re-election as independents have characterized this development of party support as a “significant departure” from local tradition, calling it a potential “end run” around having to develop local support, or even doing the necessary legwork of getting 125 signatures to get on the ballot.
They also commented on the fact that the cost of financing local elections has significantly increased over these last two elections, in some cases well over ten thousand dollars. If this trend continues anyone running for public office in this county, along with nearby Hanover, Goochland, Orange and Madison Counties who doesn’t have party sponsorship or is independently wealthy will be effectively barred from office.
An even greater danger of such monetized and politicized support has always been how it easily this process lends itself to group thinking. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groupthink
Defined by Wikipedia as: a psychological phenomenon where the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in irrational or dysfunctional decision-making. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints, actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and isolating themselves from outside influences.
The best example of which comes from the chair of the Louisa Republican Committee, who even after the Party’s candidate deadline has passed, refuses to acknowledge who has applied, or even if they plan on nominating someone for the now open Board of Supervisors seat in the Jackson District at their April 30th Mass Call, claiming that he is not “at liberty to discuss” these matters.
Because the actions of local officials have a far greater impact on our lives than those of our General Assembly or even Congress, it’s long been held that “all politics is local,” and the injection of partisan politics and money into local elections threatens to change this dynamic by assuring a perpetually stacked deck of like minded candidates.
Setting the stage for a government of elected officials whose unswerving loyalty renders them virtually incapable of understanding what the problems are, let alone any solutions. Such a loss of individual creativity and independent thinking creates a dysfunctional “illusion of invulnerability,” where members of the “in-group” significantly overrate their decision making abilities, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect and whose actions will hamper the Counties growth for as long as we continue to elect them.
The lack of alternative candidates for virtually every local office means that most of this year’s elections are already decided; however it doesn’t mean that this will continue to be the future of local elections. What you chose to do over the course of these next few elections will determine that.