Do candidates' views match those of voters?

Posted: Friday, September 26, 2008

Sure, the presidential election is a lot flashier than the municipal election coming up Oct. 7. But as voters consider national issues and candidates, we hope they also take some time to quiz those running for city and borough offices and see how the candidates' positions stack up against their own.

Thursday we started running candidate questionnaires and asked for opinion pieces, to give them a chance to let voters know where they stand on the issues that will affect us in the coming years here on the Kenai Peninsula. The intent is that these responses will help voters on the peninsula get to know the local office seekers a little better.

The information provided contains brief biographies about those running for Kenai and Soldotna city council seats, the Soldotna mayor's job, the borough mayor's job, borough assembly and school board. Each questionnaire has questions that target each of these specific races that the candidates will, no doubt, be addressing during their terms if they become elected.

It's easily argued that the No. 1 issue in all political campaigns this year is the economy.

On the local level, voters need to know candidates are thinking about the ramifications of the world's changing economy on the peninsula. Are local leaders prepared for some worst-case scenarios? Do they understand that wages aren't keeping up with rising costs? Do they have ideas for helping the communities of the peninsula do better than just weather an economic storm?

Accessibility is an important test for any candidate. Can you reach them with your questions? Will they hear your ideas? Do they consider residents part of the problem or the key to the solution?

Residents also would do well to look at the styles of candidates. Have they made up their minds on certain issues before all the facts are on the table? Is the only one right way their way? Do they equate leadership with serving the community or is leadership charging ahead with their plans, regardless of what the community says? Will they represent Kenai, Soldotna and the borough well to a broader state and national audience?

How do candidates deal with "squeaky wheels?" What "will of the people" is an elected official supposed to follow, that of the silent majority or the noisy minority?

Identifying an accurate barometer of community attitudes may be one of the most difficult jobs any elected official has. That's why a voter's job shouldn't end at the polls. Voters would do well to regularly check in with their elected officials to let them know how they're doing on issues big and small, remembering it's OK to give those officials a pat on the back for a job well done.

In the meantime, get to know the candidates and then go vote Oct. 7. It's a chance to make a difference in this place we call home.

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