Get in on the Ground Floor- The Importance of Off-year Elections
By Stefan Jones
WashCo Dems Communication Committee Member
We’ve just been through a brutal election cycle. Vast amounts of money spent, tens of thousands of doors knocked on and phone number dialed; far too many awful campaign ads viewed. We survived it, and Oregon, in particular, has every right to be proud of the huge turnout and the results. We’ve certainly deserve some time off!
But not too much time, because we have an election coming up.
Several, actually. I’m not talking about 2020… I’m talking about 2019, when cities, councils, and some states hold elections (plural!) to fill councils, school boards, water district boards, and parks & recreation boards. Bond measures and special ballot measures may be tested. For a better idea, check out these voter pamphlets from 2017, for a regular and a special election:
Right now the 2019 election “map” for Washington Country is blank. Soon you will see deadlines for candidates to nominate themselves, and deadlines for ballot measure petitions to be submitted.
Everyone should be aware of and vote in these elections, but I’m going to guess that many of the people reading this essay may have an additional interest in them. They might be your next step up the ladder of civic engagement:
You could run for one of these offices. Many city and county positions only have one candidate . . . the one person who bothered to run.
You could introduce a ballot measure.
You could run, or help run, the campaign that champions a candidate or ballot measure.
Here’s a not-so-secret: Not many citizens bother to vote in these elections.
The races are often run by very slim margins. A concerted effort to publicize your candidate or measure can make them visible to voters. A yard sign, a flyer in a mailbox, a phone call or a conversation with a friendly canvasser may be all that it takes to make a potential voter into an actual voter, one who recognizes a name or ballot measure number and fills in a bubble.
I think it is especially important for Democrats, in Washington County, throughout Oregon, and across the country, to start competing in these local races. For decades, conservatives have pursued a strategy to rule the country from the ground up, controlling school boards, city and county governments, and state legislatures. Control of an office has power in its own; the experience of running for office and participating in government also gives these bush-league politicians the experience required to move on to bigger challenges.
We need to start playing this “long game.” It is hard work, but the end result, decades from now, is having a government that, on all levels, supports the progressive ideals and values held by most of the people in the country.
Take some time to think about how you want to participate. Keep an eye out for opportunities to participate in a campaign, and for training classes on running for office.