Democracy requires people willing to run

By Observer editorial February 23, 2012 01:51 pm
Nearly all races for city and county offices in Union and Wallowa counties remain uncontested less than two weeks before the March 6 deadline for filings for the May primary elections.

In Union County, incumbent Commissioner Mark Davidson, Sheriff Boyd Rasmussen, Assessor Linda Hill, Clerk Robin Church, Surveyor Rick Robinson and Treasurer Donna Marshall are unopposed.

In Wallowa County, only the sheriff's race is contested, and incumbent Commissioners Mike Hayward and Susan Roberts and Treasurer Shonelle Dutcher-Pryse face no competition.

In La Grande, Mayor Dan Pokorney, Councilor John Bozarth and Councilor Kelly McGee have no challengers. 

This lack of competition is problematic. Politicians need to be held accountable and, even if voters think everyone currently in office deserves to be re-elected, they shouldn't be given a free pass.

New blood is critical to democracy. So John Lackey deserves kudos for stepping forward to fill the seat of La Grande Councilor Silas Kelty, who resigned. If no other resident challenges Lackey by Feb. 28, he will be appointed to the position in March. 

But where are the other future leaders of our communities? Why aren't they entering local political races?

Perhaps it's the public scrutiny that comes with holding public office. Just ask Elgin Mayor John Stover and La Grande Mayor Daniel Pokorney, who have both faced
public criticism recently.

But if would-be politicians in Union and Wallowa counties are not inspired to run at the local level, how can we ever expect them to represent us in Salem and Washington, D.C.?

In state legislative races, only candidates from Umatilla County are vying for District 58 representative and District 29 senator. That's a shame, because Union and Wallowa counties deserve local representation.

For the sake of all of us, future leaders need to be identified in each of our communities and encouraged to run for office. 

It is only through healthy competition that winners rise to the top who are capable of handling the challenges they will face in public office.

Our democratic system of governance requires it.