Voters deserve more competitive contests

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County Democrats railed against the new legislative maps that were passed along party lines in the Republican-majority Legislature. The Democrats groused that the maps were unjust, gerrymandered and designed to protect that majority. Yet they’ve apparently done very little about the perceived injustice since then, as evidenced by the lack of Democratic challengers in four districts.

It’s time the county’s political parties started doing more to find viable candidates. Maybe the political bosses need to start looking for them earlier, in the places where there are plenty of people with extensive public service who are capable of stepping up to higher offices: fire departments, civilian patrols, auxiliary police, school boards, PTAs, service organizations, American Legion and VFW posts, library boards, chambers of commerce and other business associations, zoning boards, village boards, historical societies. These groups are crowded with obviously civic-minded, community-oriented, issue-savvy folks, at least some of whom must want to take on wider leadership roles.

One good example is the 5th Legislative District, where both the Republicans and Democrats found solid candidates to run for the seat vacated by Joseph Scannell. Democrat Laura Curran is a member of the Baldwin Board of Education, and Republican Debbie Pugliese is active with the Baldwin Chamber of Commerce. Both have long histories of serving their community, and serving it well.

As long as our parties rather myopically limit their searches for candidates to their own political clubhouses — as long as Republicans and Democrats persist in favoring only their loyalists and dependents with party support — our communities will continue to be robbed of the chance to vote for a wide spectrum of true public servants, and will instead continue mostly electing servants of the parties.

And if that remains the norm, calls for a third party, or for term limits, will grow louder.
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