ICYMI: Making time for elections

broken-clockMy latest op-ed, title above, appeared in The Virginian-Pilot on May 29. (Obviously, I’ve been a little busy in the interim.) It was the final installment of a three-part series on why I think moving local elections to November is a bad idea. (Part 1, on money, is here. Part 2, on people, is here.)

One of the things most first-time candidates fail to appreciate is how much time they have to invest in running for office. Few candidates have the luxury of running for office full-time; instead, they have to fit it in along with their other duties. Time management skills are critical and those who lack the ability to figure this out are often unsuccessful. Voters expect that candidates will find time to attend their events, despite the fact that there are multiple events occurring simultaneously. Bosses may encourage their employees to run, but still expect them to get their work done; likewise, families may be supportive – actually, must be supportive – but still want some of the candidate’s time. It’s a heck of a balancing act.

The demands on the candidate’s time are almost overwhelming. The short time frame between the filing deadline in March and the election in early May means that those candidates actually only have to put the rest of their lives on hold for a short period of time. Moving elections to November just increases the amount of time. Is it any wonder, then, that candidates often find themselves making mistakes late in the race, when they reach what I call “the deep water” of exhaustion?

I think we do the voters a disservice by asking candidates for council or school board – none of which are full-time jobs in Hampton Roads – to try to campaign for such long periods.

Keep the elections in May.

Oh – and catch my column tomorrow, in which I tackle this issue of time in a different manner.

My column appears in The Virginian-Pilot every week, usually on Thursdays. You can see the columns as they are published here, or navigate to them from the PilotOnline.com homepage by clicking on Opinion and then choosing my name at the bottom of the dropdown list. You can also see the columns by liking my Facebook page. Although my column appears weekly, I am not and have never been an employee of The Virginian-Pilot nor am I paid for my contributions to the paper.

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2 thoughts on “ICYMI: Making time for elections

  1. On the other hand, an extended campaign period provides an individual interested in attaining local office sufficient time to distribute their message at a nominal cost methodology. The cost of a campaign funded by special interest gains increased leverage by raising funds in a shorter time and the availability of paid media and staff. A nominal effort requires more time to distribute a message through unpaid grass root volunteers. More importantly, if a viable candidate is unable to effectively balance his/her income and life requirements during the campaign for these “part-time” elected positions, then it stands to reason that that inability will be reflected if the candidate prevails. I guess you could call it a self-imposed vetting process.

    1. While I addressed money separately – moving to November significantly increases the cost – the ability to balance work and campaigning for an extended period can be overwhelming, particularly for first time candidates.

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