Talk to candidates now or gripe about politicians later

Posted: Sunday, June 04, 2006

With all the talk about the gas pipeline contract and the frenzy that goes along with the start of summer, it’s easy to overlook what an important election year it is. Alaskans will be electing a governor and lieutenant governor later this year. Congressman Don Young will be running for re-election. Ten state Senate seats are up for election, as are all 40 House seats.

The primary election, by the way, is Aug. 22. The Kenai Peninsula Borough and peninsula communities will hold municipal elections in October, followed by the general election Nov. 7.

Between now and then, most folks, if they pay attention at all to what’s happening around them, are likely to get pretty tired of politics. No wonder, with all the folks lining up for office.

As of Friday afternoon, 14 candidates were in the governor’s primary race. Nine people have filed to run in the lieutenant governor primary. Soldotna’s own Ken Lancaster will run as an independent in the general election.

Local House seats up for grabs are District 33, with Rep. Kurt Olson, R-Soldotna, trying to defend his seat against Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey, David L. Richards of Soldotna, Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly Member Pete Sprague, John G. “Ozzie” Osborne of Kenai, and Robert Alan Pope of Soldotna.

Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, faces no opposition for his House District 34 seat.

Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, will face Democrat Anthony K. Sieminski for House District 35.

Sen. Gary Stevens of Kodiak, whose district includes Homer, has filed for his Senate R seat, as have Seward resident Candace Norman and Charles E. Davidson, of Kodiak.

The work of those filing for office is just beginning. So is the work of those who would be informed voters. It’s a popular pastime to criticize politics, politicians and government in general. But it’s a better use of time and energy to find those people running for office with whom you share a similar vision. Now is the time to start questioning candidates about their positions on those issues that are important to you. Most candidates, if they are worth electing, will welcome the opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue with voters.

Unfortunately, it’s easier for voters to be complacent about elections. The status quo isn’t so bad, so it continues. Too few of us, politicians and voters alike, are willing to step out of our comfort zones for real change — even though real change is what we say we desire.

This election season can be different, but it will take a change among voters — not those running for office. Before the campaigning gets under way in earnest, individual voters need to decide what issues are important to them and ask candidates where they stand on those issues. Voters need to share their vision of the future of Alaska with those running for office. Instead of those on the campaign trail directing the conversation, voters need to take the lead.

Good government requires an involved, informed electorate. In fact, while most of us likely would be quick to blame the ills of government on those who serve, we really should be looking at ourselves since we’re the ones who elect those who serve.

Citizens who truly desire a change in the way government at all levels operates can make that change happen — but only be changing themselves.

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