Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Choosing Local Candidates

Kansas City's byzantine, overpopulated election season, coupled with the hundreds of holiday parties we all attend in December*, means that 'tis the season to talk local politics. This year, I have three candidates that I feel strongly about, and I've been talking up Mark Funkhouser for Mayor, Beth Gottstein for Fourth District at-large, and Mark Forsythe for Fourth District in-district.

The question raised at these parties is inevitably "why". What makes these three candidates superior?

My responses are that Mark Funkhouser is the guy who can make this city work. Mark knows the city's ins and outs, he's the smartest of the bunch, and his integrity is absolutely rock-solid dependable. And, if you get to know him even just a little, he's funny and warm in a way that gives him his own brand of nontraditional charisma.

I support Beth Gottstein because she is a bleeding heart, in the proudest tradition of the word. She is the sort of person who notices when there are no minorities in the room, and she knows the entire city. Too many politicoes know the Ward Parkway corridor, because that is where the votes come out, but Beth knows the Northland issues, the Eastside issues, and on and on. She is a smart, committed, involved do-gooder, and, while we all like to be cynical and call people names, Beth is not like that. She won my admiration forever by backing a candidate I sharply opposed in a recent election. When I would take potshots at the guy, she would write me sincere, factual emails addressing my charges in a calm, friendly fashion. Our exchanges convinced me that her sincerity and integrity distinguish her from almost any politician I've met.

Mark Forsythe - heck, I'm not going to even bother describing why I support him, after the love letter I wrote last night. The guy is the real deal - eager to serve his constituents, and clearly the best fresh face Kansas City has seen in way too long.

But, all that said, those are the reasons I want you to vote for those candidates. If I'm honest with myself, they are not truly why I am supporting those candidates.

Choosing local candidates is different from choosing national candidates because the huge issues don't matter nearly as much. I don't know any of these candidates' positions on the sort of issues we look at as the big, divisive issues of the day. Where do they stand on the war in Iraq, or abortion, or capital punishment, or whatever hot-button issue you name? I don't really know in most cases, and I don't really care.

Most of us are way too ignorant to come up with a similar list of local issues. Where do they stand on downtown baseball? Come on, that issue died a long time ago. Where do they stand on downtown development - well, everyone is in favor of downtown development, but the issue for informed people becomes one of how much of your money they want to invest in it, as opposed to parks, roads and sewers. There aren't that many clear issues - the devil lies in the details.

Truth be told, I couldn't lay out a complete summation of my favorite candidates' positions on the local issues, either.

What motivates me in choosing local candidates is more of a sense of who they are rather than what they say on a particular issue. Kansas City is small enough that it is possible to meet a decent percentage of the candidates if you are alert and if you care to get involved. Even if you don't know them, you almost certainly know people who do.

Character quickly becomes the issue, when the races are small enough and the players are close enough that you can assess it by watching how they behave. It's vastly different from sitting down with an issues checklist and seeing who matches most closely your own views.

*This is a sidetrack, but I hate it when people do what I just did. "Oh, I can't possibly squeeze in another thing until January. I have 3 parties every night from now until the end of the year, and 12 parties every weekend." Oh. Let's see, I guess that means I am the least popular person in the city, because I get around four invitations per year, counting the two office parties for my wife and me and, of course, the Kansas City Young Republicans, which I'm not really invited to but I'd love to crash some day.


Post a Comment

<< Home