Political Candidate Quality
The problem with political candidates at any level is that the very act of volunteering to run for office should be enough to disqualify most candidates. In other words the primary reasons many people decide to run for public office has to do with satisfying personal agendas and needs which usually have little connection to citizen benefits.
So what describes a ‘Quality Candidate’? Consider the following attributes:
- Maturity and balance from life experience.
- Careful stewards of the citizen’s resources—largely influenced by the awareness of the historically proven fact that the bigger government gets, the more arrogant it becomes with citizens and irresponsible and capricious with their tax dollars.
- Knowledgeable of relevant issues and priorities for political initiatives.
- Politically savvy– aware of how the “system” works and how to avoid being a punching bag for the opposition.
- Hard working and smart campaigner.
- Leadership and team-building skills – can be respected and trusted.
- Solid reputation with no “October surprises”.
- Financially secure enough to not suffer stress by taking time from a business or job.
- Confident and effective speaker.
- Unafraid to root out ‘Special Interests’ that don’t align with citizen’s interests (not corruptible).
- Name recognition is a bonus – however it should not be the focus.
So how to find such candidates? Every community has such people—but by and large these people are successful, busy, and not really in the mood to spend a year campaigning and begging people for money and help.
To start we need to acknowledge there is usually a poor structure or process in screening and encouraging quality people to run for public office. The correct recruitment process would include the ability to credibly represent and deliver solid financial and volunteer support to the high-quality candidates. Currently, candidates mostly just show up based largely on their own self-interests and usually with no awareness of their weaknesses. This leads to a potpourri of egos, questionable motivations and experience levels. This situation rarely motivates donors and volunteers. Cultivating quality candidates should be an organized, methodical process of identifying and encouraging prospective individuals and helping them with weaknesses and obstacles. The thing to remember is that the most qualified people for public office are frequently successful in the private sector, and correspondingly busy and find it difficult to put on hold their successful lives for public service.
Relative to the candidate attribute list above, those identifying and encouraging political candidates should not seek perfection, but simply should be aware of the ideal and at least avoid weak candidates. Avoiding the weak candidates may be more challenging than finding good ones. The self-styled politicians are usually unimpressed when others suggest, ‘maybe you’re not the right candidate’. Another difficult situation is when two decent or similarly equipped candidates want to run for the same position, but one should defer to the other, as the presence of two or more can greatly reduce the chances of the better candidate getting past the primary election to the general election.
To be credible and influential the candidate vetting and selection process needs people with a good track records and no appearance of self-interest in recommendations. This is distinguished from most entities making political recommendations or endorsements that have specific and narrow agendas (see our statement on political endorsements). Even with a credible selection team, there will still be cries of bias and claims that no group has the right to be a gate-keeper to who runs for political office. These cries need to be ignored, or the current pervasive problem of incompetent and corrupt politicians will be perpetuated.
Those insisting on truly wise and ethical government in Clark county need to work together to inspire good candidates to get interested in the idea of political service, and to cultivate and encourage such persons, then actually support them during the race and while in office. Politics is a rough and tumble endeavor, and few reasonably secure private citizens would be willing to expose themselves to the misrepresentations and personal attacks unless they feel secure that their sponsors protect and support them. Otherwise all we tend to get are more ‘politicians’ instead of statesman.