Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Primary Season

It's primary election time in Oregon. That means TV ads, lawn signs, and door-to-door campaigners. The candidates are taking a few pot shots at each other, but so far it's pretty low key. The fall election will be a different story, I'm sure.

I have to admit that I am amused by the candidates who claim that their lack of political experience is a plus. It seems my thirty years in state government makes me a bit of a cynic.

At the local level, it's understandable that first-time candidates will have limited political experience. And many new state legislators have minimal or no political background. But we have a candidate for governor who has never before shown any political leanings, has a sketchy voting record, and has only his career as a professional athlete to recommend him.

At this point I should probably reveal that I am a registered Democrat and the above-referenced candidate for governor is a Republican. But it isn't necessarily his political viewpoints that make me roll my eyes. It's the fact that his lack of participation in state government is supposed to be a plus.

Now, few of us would select a surgeon or plumber or landscaper who advertised a lack of experience.

So as a former state employee I just shake my head. The "outsider" Republican candidate is ahead in the primary polls and may very well be elected governor in November. Boy! Will he have a learning curve!

He will find out:

* When taxpayers claim that they want smaller government -- they don't mean a reduction in the specific services they expect.
* Some programs and activities are established by statute and can't be eliminated from the budget without a vote of the legislature.
* One voter's waste of tax funds is another voter's necessity.
* Reducing some state budgets also reduces matching federal funding.
* Some funds are dedicated to specific programs and are not available for transfer to other uses.
* It takes years to learn the programs and activities of all the state agencies.

Whether right or wrong, it's a fact that politics is based on relationships. Self-proclaimed outsiders have yet to build relationships within the capitol that will help them make the changes that they claim they will accomplish.

And, it's a fact that the front line state employees will keep things running as best they can with the resources available regardless of who is in office.

I guess there's a reason that public employees rarely run for political office. They know too much.


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eventer79 said...

As a fellow state employee, I agree totally on your last points. It never fails to crack me up when people proclaim that taxes should be lower or nonexistent -- while driving on roads, visiting libraries, using schools, checking their mail, and calling the police. *sigh*