Monday, March 5, 2012

Weekly Opinon Editorial

SB#327 an attempt to blur the lines between candidates

by Steve Fair

Last week, the Rules committee in the State House of Representatives approved Senate Bill #327 which would make the office of County Sheriff in Oklahoma a non-partisan office. The disappointing thing is five Republicans voted with the Democrats on the committee to move the bill to a floor vote. Previously, the bill had passed the Senate 29-17.
The House author of the bill, Representative Randy Grau, (R-Edmond) says, “Legislators have an opportunity to show whether we want to be statesmen more than we want to be politicians. The public safety of a community is not a partisan matter. Lawmakers make decisions as to the law, county sheriffs execute it. This is absolutely no need for a partisan sheriff.”
Is a Sheriff partisan? What is partisan? Webster’s defines a partisan as ‘someone who is a proponent of a Party, cause, faction, person or idea.’ Really, being a partisan is not necessarily a bad thing. Everyone is partisan! All of us advocate for our ideas, a cause or people. The key is to be partisan based on absolute truth and not on emotions, opinions, or circumstances. Where do we find the truth- in God’s Word. We should be partisan for those things He is for and against those things He is against. I want to know if my Sheriff is a conservative or a liberal. I want to know if he is a Republican or Democrat.
This non-partisan issue has come up before. In 2007, then Representative Rob Johnson, (R-Kingfisher) ran a bill to make all county offices non-partisan. The bill failed. Johnson has since moved to the State Senate when his Dad termed out and is the Senate author of SB#327. Here are two reasons why I am opposed to SB #327:
First, political party affiliation defines a candidate! It’s their first vote. If a candidate does not have to declare what Party they are registered in, it makes it difficult to determine what they stand for. Republicans are traditionally more conservative and Democrats more liberal. That is even truer today than it was twenty years ago. Removing those labels from a race will lead to confusion for the voter. Candidates should be proud of their Party affiliation and be willing to defend why they are registered with a certain Party. We should know whether a person has a liberal or conservative bent when they run. Their Party affiliation will likely tell us how they will view issues while in office.
Second, Democrats are behind this bill and their motive is not about partisanship, it’s about staying in office. The major proponent of moving to non-partisan Sheriff’s races is the Sheriff of Oklahoma County, John Whetsel. Whetsel, a Democrat, realizes that being a Democrat on the ballot in 2012 will hurt his chance of re-election. Whetsel and Democrats are advocating this ‘statesman-like’ change as Republicans are quickly becoming the majority Party in Oklahoma. This is nothing less than opportunistic and the proposed change is not rooted in conviction, but in convenience.
Some legislators have correctly pointed out that making county offices non-partisan is in the current State Republican Party platform. Sadly, that is true and that plank should be removed. Years ago, after losing county race after county race with Republican candidates that were infinitely more qualified then the Democrat, I said we should make all county office races non-partisan. Democrats opposed the idea and they were right and I was wrong! I repent in sackcloth and ashes. I failed to see the importance of knowing a person’s ideology and philosophy and their their Party affiliation helps do that.
Because Republicans now outnumber Democrats in county offices across the state, Democrats all of a sudden want to remove the labels. Removing a candidate’s Party affiliation blurs elections for voters. It’s difficult enough to find out information about people who run for office. Knowing a candidate’s Party affiliation gives us at least an idea of their basic ideology.
Every office- municipal, judicial, school board- should be partisan. By declaring one’s Party affiliation, voters can better identify the liberals and conservatives. Running in partisan elections forces candidates to take a stand- a key characteristic of the leadership they will need to be effective elected officials.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hmmm...Something interesting to ponder. While I understand what you are saying about partisan races, I don't see that it is the answer. Too many politicians change party affiliation, based upon things other than thier core beliefs. How Arlen Specter was ever elected as a republican just amazes me. Of course, he switched parties in 2009, and is now a democrat. We have candidates running against Obama, who have voted just like Obama did while serving in Congress. They claim to be republican, but thier voting record doesn't reflect the republican platform such as the sancty of life: "Faithful to the first guarantee of the Declaration of Independence, we assert the inherent dignity and sanctity of all human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed."

As I understand it, officials take an oath to uphold the US Constitution. The problem is that most of them don't keep their word. Sadly, many will say whatever they need to, to be elected. Once in office, they often will participate in partisan politics, saying things like "I have to admit, I voted for that, it was against the principles I believed in, but you know, when you're part of the team, sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader, and I made a mistake. You know, politics is a team sports, folks, and sometimes you've got to rally together and do something, and in this case I thought testing and finding out how bad the problem was wasn't a bad idea". You stated, "The key is to be partisan based on absolute truth and not on emotions, opinions, or circumstances. Where do we find the truth- in God’s Word." My question now: Is going against one's core beliefs being truthful? Can it be justified to God that one is "doing it for the team?" How should I know how this candidate would vote, despite what they say, how they believe or what their party affiliation is? So much of the flip-flopping of the candidates makes it difficult to trust them or know where they really stand.

Honestly, for me it boils down to their voting record and thier actions. Party affiliation, sadly, doesn't seem to tell you much these days. "Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" Matthew 7:16

I started out this response somewhat agreeing with your post but also believing there should be some sort of accountablility. I actually still believe there should be accountability, but I don't think party labeling is the answer. There are some Democrats that are more conservative than some Republicans, so how much does it really matter?

My loyalty is to God, my family, and country. I think God holds us accountable by our fruits not so much what we are labeled. (IFB, Southern Baptist, Democrat, Republican, etc.) Just my 2 cents. ~Lisa Becerra