The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

February 23, 2014

Could you be a candidate?

Saturday, February 22, 2014 — RALEIGH — The 2014 campaign season may have started months ago when candidates began raising money, outlining their messages and jockeying for position in their respective primaries.

But as of Feb. 10, candidates now have to make it official as the candidate-filing period has opened here in North Carolina. All candidates must file with the board of elections to appear on the ballot, and they will have from now until the end of February to do so.

Some candidates are already well known and have publicly stated their intentions to run, especially contenders for higher-profile or statewide races, but there always seems to be a few surprises when the filing period officially opens.

The requirements to be a candidate vary depending on which office a person is seeking, but at the most basic level everyone planning to run for office must be a resident of North Carolina and at least 21 years of age. Candidates must pay a filing fee when declaring as well, which can run from almost $1,750 for congressional candidates to $5 for someone running for soil and water conservation district supervisor.

Counting all races on the ballot across the state, we might have anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 candidates officially file paperwork to run for office. The May 6 primary will whittle that number down, but voters still might have upward of 20 races on their ballot when it comes time to vote in November. That includes everything from contests for the U.S. Senate and Congress to county commission and judicial races.

While running for office might seem intimidating or impossible to the average citizen, the candidates on the ballot truly are our neighbors, colleagues, friends and family. All it takes is an interest in bettering your community and some money for the filing fee and pretty much any North Carolinian can declare themselves a candidate for office.

Of course, what comes next after filing for office might not be so obvious. Sure, you would have to raise at least some money, though local races often aren’t as expensive as you might think. You will get plenty of media requests and invites to speak at candidate forums and other community events as well. But the most important job of any candidate will be talking to voters.

If anything, we need more candidates interested in discussing real issues with real voters, and less that are only interested in tearing down their opponent with negative attacks. At the end of the day, politics and elections are a debate about issues and which direction is best for our community and our state. Healthy competition in these races is good for our democracy.

Unfortunately, many of the races on the ballot this year will be unopposed and feature only one candidate, leaving voters with no real say when they enter the polling booth on Election Day. When that happens, it robs voters of a substantive debate and our democracy suffers.

When the candidate-filing period ends on Feb. 28, go ahead and check out who’s running for office in your area. And if you don’t like what you see, consider running yourself next time.

Our democracy performs best when voters have real choices, and it’s up to us to make it happen.

Brent Laurenz is executive director of the N.C. Center for Voter Education and a contributor to TheVoterUpdate.com.

He can be contacted at laurenz@ncvotered.com.

 

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