Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Political Pollution

We, the citizens of Queen Anne's County, have the good fortune to live in a beautiful place, with vistas that seem stolen from postcards and where the wildlife can seem almost ubiquitous. But it seems that every four years, when local elections approach, dozens of those hoping to be elected lose all sense of scale and reason, and litter our county with countless plastic signs. It seems that 2014 has been the worst yet, with signs starting to pop up when voters were still thinking of what Christmas gifts to return. We should not have to be subject to low-grade roadside politicking for ten straight months.

So early on in my campaign for the Board of Education, I made a pledge to myself, never to put a sign in a public place, never to put a sign anywhere I had not secured explicit permission, never to put my signs in a place clustered with many other signs. In short, my promise was only to put yard signs in the yards of my supporters. I never intended to print a large highway sign. Never thought much of putting dozens of signs up at the early voting locations, or at the polling places on Election Day.

Looking back, I am glad that I made (and kept) this pledge. Because the county has been turned into a trash  heap of political signs. Gas stations, off-ramps, business parks, and most notably, the Kramer Center in Centreville and the Kent Island Library, both of which have been turned into embarrassing displays of political pollution. Any individual candidate gets lost in the crowd of literally hundreds of signs.

Now some local politicians and political hopefuls have heard the outcries of the voters who are dismayed with what they've seen our county become, and they are suggesting discretion when it comes to placing political signs. That is really great of them, and I would suggest that it is about time.

The voters deserve to know that some candidates, including this one, opted not to plaster political signs on every grassy surface. I find political signs to be the equivalent of shouting into a bullhorn. Effective? Perhaps. Annoying? Almost certainly. Much like you, I've never made a single voting decision based on who had the most signs. And while I am a candidate, I am a voter and a citizen first, and I felt the same way about all those signs on the roadside and at the polling place as you do, which compelled me to keep my signs where they belong.

Typical politicians think that political signs are a key part of a campaign, they are just something that has to be done in order to win. Now that the public reaction has soured, those candidates will agree to remove some of those signs. Sometimes leadership requires you to do something before everyone else thinks of it, I am proud of the fact you won't see a single Steven Kline for Board of Education sign on the side of a highway, at a gas station,  on public property, or at a polling place. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Reasonable People Should Not Applaud Cantor's Defeat

On February 11, 2014, Eric Cantor voted yes. He joined John Boehner, and only 26 other of his Republican cohorts in the House to raise the debt ceiling without condition, ending years of debt ceiling brinksmanship. Eric Cantor, as of this morning still the Majority Leader of the United States House of Representatives, is not a moderate. He is a conservative, which rankles some, but he is reasonable. He is the kind of Republican who, under the right circumstances, can vote for a Farm Bill, for a bipartisan budget deal, for a Highway Bill, can even entertain discussions about immigration reform (indeed The Hill newspaper is already reporting that immigration reform is likely dead with Cantor's defeat).

So it is dismaying to see so many reasonable people take to social media to celebrate Eric Cantor's demise. Regardless of what happens in Virginia's 7th Congressional district come November and Election Day, the Republicans will almost certainly retain control of the House, which means that Eric Cantor will be replaced as Majority Leader, likely by someone like Kevin McCarthy (CA) or Paul Ryan (WI).  And for their efforts yesterday, Virginia's 7th District voters will be represented by someone with astoundingly less clout.

Mike Simpson and Mitch McConnell, a member of the House from Idaho and the Minority Leader of the Senate from Kentucky, respectively, are establishment Republicans who fended off strong Tea Party primary challengers just a few weeks ago. At the time, I thought that was a good sign, because it could begin to make reasonable Republicans once again feel comfortable that they could indeed be reasonable, with less fear of opposition from an extremist wing of the Republican base. In short, they wouldn't have to defend their flank with extremism.

But the Cantor race is a monumental setback in the effort to restore a sensible Republican Party. Now, every member of the Republican Party who is up for reelection, anywhere and at virtually every level of government, will be compelled to steer inevitably to the right. Towards hardened, inflexible positions that steel them from substantive primary challengers and accusations of being "too liberal." Eric Cantor is not even a shade liberal, he has been stubbornly unwilling to deal on many issues, has been an obstructionist at times. On the surface, to the untrained eye, his removal from the helm of the GOP ship means that his strain of political obstructionism is on the wane. That would be a mistake. His loss means that government shutdowns, bond rating reductions and general stasis will become more likely, not less. In short, his strain of obstructionism has been replaced by a more virulent strain.         

Monday, June 09, 2014

A Hat Tip to Hard Work

There is a stronger than normal force pulling me incessantly back to Elm Street these days. The photos of my two kids and my wife that sit on my desk in Washington, the photos Kim texts me of the kids being silly throughout the day that appear regularly on my phone. For the five years we've lived on the Eastern Shore, I generally get home around 7, leave the house around 6. It's a long day, and a long commute, but I love what I get to do for a living, and I love getting to call the Eastern Shore home, so it is all part of the bargain. But having a new family has made my desire to be home much more pressing and profound.

Perhaps it makes sense then, that as I thought about running for the Board of Education I thought of the time a proper campaign would inevitably consume, the time away from Kim, Alex, and Emily. Stepping in to the race would mean missing putting the kids to bed some nights, and weekend afternoons spent out on the campaign trail and not with the family. I am not unique, every candidate who enters any race understands the sacrifices that are necessary to run a credible campaign.

But where I do believe I am unique, is the level of effort I have put into this campaign. I have attended every candidate forum, sign waved across the county, knocked on doors, and attended far more Board of Education meetings than any other candidate. I have talked to county commissioners about education, I have talked to commissioner candidates about their views on education. And after the public aspect of the campaign ends for the day, I have spent countless hours researching the county's education budget, Common Core standards, and a whole bevy of other education issues.

The only promise my campaign has made is one that I know I can keep: no other candidate for the Board of Education will work harder on behalf of our county's students and taxpayers than I will.

I believe strongly that those who seek to hold public office must work hard to earn the trust of those they hope to represent. They owe the voters, in short, a glimpse of the kind of elected official they will be. Candidates who pledge hard work and effort, but don't illustrate that pledge with vigor on the campaign trail, are unlikely to keep their promises if they are trusted with elected office. Work ethic isn't a light switch.

It has been tough to leave the family, but I know that if by my effort, I can improve the education available to my children, and moreover to all the children of Queen Anne's County, both today and in the future, then that time away from home will not have been spent in vain. As your member of the Board of Education, I will bring the same commitment to the Board as I have brought to the campaign.  I would be honored by your confidence on Election Day.