SUN Viewpoint: Too many candidates will get a free ride

Copyright (c)2020 Sun Coast Media Group

OUR POSITION: While there is still time to qualify before the June 12 deadline, there are way too many political office holders who will have no opposition this November.

The plethora of candidates for office who are set to sail through the election without ever having to put up a campaign sign is disappointing.

We say that not because we believe office holders aren’t doing a good job, but because of what will be missing from the election process.

We believe a candidate can grow when they have someone to push them. To debate ideas. To question decisions made and policies. A race for office sheds a light on campaign contributions. Who is backing who and why?

Campaigning for office is not easy. We admire anyone who is willing to hold themselves up to public scrutiny, go to debates, often knock on doors to meet constituents and ask for money to finance their campaign. It can be a humbling experience.

As of this writing, in Charlotte County, all three county commissioners whose term is up will be elected without opposition. Bill Truex, Ken Doherty and Joe Tiseo have seats on the line. But no one has come forward to challenge them.

Maybe that is because we have one of the best collection of county commissioners in the county’s recent history. There have been few controversies — other than septic to sewer — and they all seemingly get along. Other than a spat last year over a proposed hurricane shelter at Babcock Ranch, there has hardly been a brow raised at the commissioners’ decisions. But that doesn’t mean they should coast into office. A person can get all too comfortable when they never have to raise money or travel the county looking for votes. Pretty soon you could begin to feel any decision you make is OK. No one cares and no one challenges it.

But the lack of candidates goes way beyond the County Commission in Charlotte.

Charlotte County’s property appraiser, Paul Polk, Tax Collector Vicki Potts and Sheriff Bill Prummell lack opponents. Also, two of the three School Board members up for re-election will face no opposition. Only Kim Amontree has an opponent in Joe Williams.

In Punta Gorda, Jaha Cummings, Debby Carey and Lynne Matthews will skate into a new term without having to answer to voters. The situation is the same on the Punta Gorda Airport Authority board where Paul Andrews and James Herston have no opponent and Vanessa Oliver is running unopposed for the seat vacated by Pam Seay.

DeSoto County Commissioners Buddy Mansfield, Judy Schaefer and Terry Hill are facing no opposition as of today.

Sarasota County is an exception as there are races to be won for the County Commission and School Board. But there are no opponents for incumbents in the Clerk of Court and Comptroller office, property appraiser, supervisor of elections and tax collector’s office along with seats on the hospital board.

Sarasota County’s races could be credited to the fact the Republican party there, while strong, does not have a stranglehold on voters as it does in Charlotte County.

Charlotte’s poor performance by Democrats in the past, we fear, has made for a what’s-the-use attitude. But, some races where incumbents face no opposition are nonpartisan. We can’t blame the lack of Democrats for that.

Party affiliation, however, has nothing to do with what we see as a big problem in local politics. Despite our appreciation and affinity for those now holding office, history shows stronger candidates emerge when they face opposition.

There is still time to step up.

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