Speak up

Published 6:12 am Sunday, October 14, 2007

By Staff
It’s a shame that candidates in uncontested municipal races in Beaufort County chose not to participate in a candidates forum on Thursday.
Voters deserve to hear what candidates consider as issues that need to be addressed in their communities and how candidates will address those issues if elected to office. Opting not to participate in the forum, held at Northside High School and sponsored by the Beaufort-Hyde News, is a disservice on the part of the candidates to the voters.
One or two unopposed mayoral candidates did send statements to be read at the forum. Although that’s better than not showing up at all, it still sends a message to voters.
Just because unopposed candidates have their seats on their councils or boards all but locked up, that does not mean they should not let voters know what their plans are once in office. One can make the argument that the more local the government office is, the more the person holding that office affects voters’ day-to-day lives.
Unopposed candidates should tell voters what their views are on the issues facing communities in which those voters live. Unopposed candidates should not believe they have a mandate to do what they want to do because they face no opposition. All candidates, opposed or not, are accountable to the voters who put them in office. Even candidates who are not elected to office are accountable to voters. A candidate, opposed or unopposed, seeking someone’s vote should be willing to share his or her platform with that voter.
It could be argued that candidates who are unopposed could be more dangerous than candidates who are opposed. An unopposed candidate doesn’t have to say one word about what she or he could or would do once in office. Such a candidate, during a campaign, can decide not to take a position with an issue, in part because there is no opposition to force him or her to take a stand on that issue.
The danger lies in finding out after a candidate is elected that he or she doesn’t plan on doing what’s best for the community. That’s why any candidate, unopposed or opposed, should let voters know what he or she wants to accomplish while in office and serving those who put him or her in office.
There’s nothing wrong with running unopposed. No doubt some unopposed candidates in this election cycle will serve well while in office. Indeed, many unopposed candidates are unopposed because they have served extremely well while in office. That’s not the point.
Before the voters speak at the polls, it would be a good thing to hear all candidates, opposed and unopposed, speak their minds and let voters know where they stand, even if where they are standing is where they have been standing. Voters may want to know, even take comfort in knowing, that a veteran, unopposed candidate holds the same beliefs he or she held two years ago or 20 years ago.
Although not required to spend one penny on getting their messages out to the voters, unopposed candidates would do well to take advantage of candidates forums to inform the public on their views on topics such as development, government-provided services and fiscal policies pertaining to local government spending.
It’s this simple: A candidate — facing a challenger or not — who wants someone’s vote should let that voter know why he or she should get that person’s vote. Unopposed should not mean uninvolved.
Want someone’s vote? Ask for it, then tell that voter why his or her vote is being solicited.