The Value of Meeting Candidates

The Value of Meeting Candidates

With the recent hubbub over the presidential primaries fading into resignation over the choices it appears we will face on the November ballot, it’s easy to feel like a disenfranchised voter.

For me, it happens every presidential election year. By the time our state’s primary rolls around in mid-May, there is only one candidate on each party’s ballot. The last contested race took place in 2008, when the neck-and-neck, down-to-the-wire race between Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton shined a national spotlight on our selection.

Of course, to sink into a blue mood because the presidential selection process is sidelined until Nov. 5 is to ignore countless others. Ones that will have more of an impact on my daily life than who sits in the White House.

Dozens of Decisions

By Mobilus In Mobili - https://www.flickr.com/photos/mobili/24144490219/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57124671Curiosity about this year’s choices took me to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s website. There I counted nearly two dozen races in 2024 that will be decided at the county, state and federal levels.

There are a number of serious decisions facing the state this year. They start with who will replace retiring Sen. Joe Manchin and Gov. Jim Justice, who is term-limited but now has his eyes set on Manchin’s seat.

Voters will also choose who takes over as the state’s governor, who becomes the attorney general, auditor, and treasurer, and who takes other offices, including seats on the state supreme court. At the county level we will have a new sheriff, possibly new county commissioners, and new school board members.

Added to this are a number of local elections. In my city, the current mayor is completing 12 years in office and can’t run again (although he is in the race for governor). Residents will choose representatives from their district as well as two at-large seats on the city council, plus the local park board.

Once again, until four years from now, we will face “the most important election of our lifetime.” I say that with tongue in cheek because this kind of hyperbole greets voters every time. However, it’s always true.

Candidates Events: Pressing the Flesh

The Value of Meeting Candidates blog post by Ken Walker Writer. Pictured: A meet the candidates type event.In a sense, I feel like society is coming back to life after the hysteria of pandemic-and-lockdown days. In 2020, the “Meet the Candidates” nights that have been such a regular aspect of civic life vanished.

Even in 2022 there weren’t that many, nor were they well-publicized. By the time I tracked down the existence of one online, it had already been held.

Recently, I took steps to make sure that doesn’t happen again this year, scouring the League of Women Voters and other sites in an effort to find the dates of these meetings well in advance.

It’s fascinating that in this era of high-tech tools and AI-generated fakery—like the phony Joe Biden robocaller in New Hampshire’s March primary—grassroots campaign appearances are more important than ever.

Attending local candidates’ events, where name-calling and political posturing are generally kept to a minimum, is always personally encouraging. They are a reminder that many people seeking office are in it more for public service than the glory and seeking of power that often characterizes national races.

They also have helped me decide who (or who not) to vote for, based on the candidates’ answers to moderators’ and voters’ questions. That’s why I so dearly missed them in 2020 and ’22, when I felt like I were making voting choices in a vacuum.

That’s why I am eager to soon meet the people who will be seeking my vote. While the democratic process isn’t perfect, it’s still better than living in a dictatorship.

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