Election season unfolds

May 6, 2012 By Steven R. Peck

Candidates and voters share the obligation

As the leaves emerge and the flowers unfold, another season is starting to bloom as well. It's an election year, and the filing period for the primary begins later this month.

The pre-election calculations already are well under way, however. Some candidates announce early, hoping to send a message to potential opponents. Others bide their time, evaluating the early filers and deciding whether to plunge into the pool at the last moment, making as big a splash as possible.

It's a time for some to decide whether to enter the demanding, stressful existence of a political candidate, which could be the path to the demanding, stressful existence of an office holder.

Others must decide if they want to continue in office. For some, elected service isn't what they had in mind. One term suffices. Others take to it with enthusiasm and stamina, serving for many years. Eventually, however, enough is enough. Deciding when to step down is a momentous process for a long-standing official.

Is it worth challenging an incumbent in today's heavily districted election environment? Most say that makes incumbents harder than ever to beat, but there's an upset or two every year.

If at first you haven't succeeded, should you try, try again? Nearly every elected body has someone who ran unsuccessfully once, then made it the second time around -- sometimes even the third.

Can a potential candidate afford to run, and to serve? It takes money to get elected, and few offices offer financial reward to match the time and energy involved. That's why so many elected officials are retirees; many younger people can't afford the time off work.

Money isn't the only cost. Seeking and serving in office takes time away from family, away from normal pursuits. Stress levels rise commensurate with the pressures of service, and the added burden of public scrutiny and criticism can be a further discouragement.

Given all that, on paper it seems a wonder anyone runs for office at all. But the lure remains, and candidates always emerge. This year, it's likely that we'll see the start of a long and productive public-service career, carried by someone few will have heard of before the election process turns that person into a certain kind of celebrity.

This is the stuff of elections, and in a few days it will begin in earnest for Fremont County. Amid all the talk about the candidates here and the candidates there, never forget the other side of the election equation -- the most important one. It's the electorate itself. The voters. You. The process can't work without you, and it deserves your best effort as well. Be sure to give it.

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