As Nov. 3 fast approaches and we are bombarded by campaign ads, mailers and robocalls, it is helpful to remember how important it is to have choices when it comes to our political leadership.
While national and many state races are hotly contested, local elections are too frequently contests of one — sometimes none. Being the only person running for selectman or school board does not mean that a candidate is not eminently qualified, but it is a letdown to have only one possible box to check on a ballot.
The very best scenario, of course, is having multiple qualified — or at least enthusiastic — candidates to choose from. The voter who wants to make an informed decision will have to really dig in and see where each candidate stands on the issues. In a small town, that can mean pulling the candidate aside for a chat at the corner store. The best part about local elections is that they usually aren’t mired in partisanship. Voters have to rely on other factors than whether candidates have an “R” or “D” after their names. Easier to do when you are talking about friends, neighbors and fellow townspeople.
An interesting upside of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has encouraged civic engagement among people who may not have been that engaged before. Using Zoom and social media to stream municipal meetings has opened up a wider audience. There’s been great scrutiny on officials’ response to the virus and the local ramifications. The increased awareness of local government’s effect on individual lives may have influenced some candidates’ decisions to run for office.
In Bar Harbor, the local House of Representatives seat has drawn three candidates. In fact, of the state House districts representing Hancock County, all but two will have contested races on the Nov. 3 ballot. All three state Senate district races representing Hancock County towns are also contested.
With fewer in-person campaign events and less door-to-door canvasing, the campaign trail has gone digital. Many candidates have web pages or social media accounts where voters can learn more and reach out. The League of Women Voters have planned upcoming virtual candidates’ forums. (Full disclosure: the Mount Desert Islander is a co-sponsor for the upcoming House 135 forum on Oct. 12.) Hear directly from the candidates why they should have your vote.
Choice is good; an informed choice even better.