Partisan vs Non-Partisan Elections

Having moved to Cape Coral almost seven years ago, I experienced non-partisan city government elections for the first time in my voting life.  I found this odd, but tried to remain open- minded…initially. That did not last long. There is definitely much drama in partisan elections, but I have never seen the drama I have witnessed in the past seven years of elections in Cape Coral, Fl. Personally, I have had my fill of it. From my experience, I find partisan elections much more direct and clear (though no election will ever be drama free). Though there are crazy candidates on both sides of the aisle, these non-partisan elections seem to provide more than their fair share of unhinged, unvetted, unqualified candidates and elected officials!

I wish Democrats and Republicans were not so far apart on basic core values, but we are. And if you are a political hound who registers to vote as either a D or R you have made a personal values statement; big government (D) vs. limited government (R), hand out (D) vs. hand up (R).  I could go on and on. I want to know who my conservative choices are in any election where an individual wants my vote to govern my family and me, to make decisions about quality of life issues or how my hard-earned tax dollars are spent. This is exactly what city government does.  Though many issues may seem non-partisan on the face, the means by which to resolve issues are value-based.  Partisanship matters!

There are many ways to determine the values of a person or candidate. I recognize that partisanship is only one of those ways. We have all experienced a candidate who has betrayed the values they promised to uphold once in office. But that goes to misrepresentation and the integrity of that person. The easy answer is to hold them accountable with your vote. But if you are a conservative, and vote for a declared liberal and they go forward to exhibit different values than you…well, what did you expect? Basically, you got what you bargained for.

Another issue with non-partisan elections is there does not seem to be professional vetting done on the candidates. This takes us back to the crazy-factor identified in the first paragraph. Professional vetting costs money, which requires party support in small, city elections. City level campaigns have small budgets and generally do limited opposition research on their opponent(s). Rarely do they find the erratic work experience, major gaps of time, fake or exaggerated past position claims, tax liens or criminal activities in other states, etc. These are basic issues a national background investigation would uncover by any competent human resources director. Are candidates not applying for a job?

For many, non-partisan elections are partisan anyway. They immediately identify the folks from their affiliated party and start the elimination process from there. Others, the NPA’s and independents, though may have left or right leanings, start the elimination process in a different place. Regardless, we all have the right to know as much as possible about the folks who need our vote and wish to govern us. I agree that the need to take care of veterans should be a non-partisan issue. But values dictate decisions.  We have seen this again and again. If required to choose between funding tax-payer abortions or veterans projects, the values of the individual will guide that decision. If tasked to find money for new bike paths, the values of the individual will be the difference in levying a new tax or cutting the fat in an existing budget. Values matter! Partisanship matters!

This “non-partisan” fiasco in Cape Coral is a means by which leaders of days gone by attempted to force upon the citizens a structure of non-partisanship, of hiding affiliations and values “for the good of the people”. They decided what we need or do not need to know. What about the 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America? Did Cape Coral somehow become exempt from it? I see no place in this founding document that states when a person chooses to run for elected office in the city of Cape Coral they must forego their personal rights and must stay quiet about certain affiliations.

It smells of secrecy and coverups. They are banking on most of the people not investigating or not knowing what the candidates’ values are, and if they do show up to vote, their ballot will not inform them of those values.  This gives the candidate who shows up first in the alphabet on the ballot an edge with this uninformed group of voters. Wouldn’t it be better to at least allow them to know what party and core values the candidates claim to be affiliated with?

Why the secrecy? Why can’t we be completely up-front about our elections in Cape Coral? Who and what is to gain from hiding party affiliation? Is it fear that one party would suffer due to the demographics of the area? Oh well, that is how the cookie crumbles. Time to pull up our big boy/girl pants and recognize that we are an information driven society. It is better to be honest and upfront with the information than to shroud it in a dark cloud of secrecy?  I can assure you, people like me will pick at this scab of secrecy until it bleeds profusely. Partisanship is not everything, but it is SOMETHING and should not be hidden.