Oh where oh where are the candidates?

It is the time of year for prospective candidates to indicate their intentions in running for elective office. They must submit their names for the ballot at least 100 days before the March primary.

Lori Miller, director of the Hancock County Board of Elections lamented the lack of candidates in the 12/19 edition of The Courier.

“The same people have been on and I don’t know why people don’t run against them,” Miller said. “You would think with all of interest in the commissioners’ race that someone might file for some of the other seats.”

As of December 19, the only contested county races were for 2 spots on the County Commissioners. All the other elective offices up for a vote in 2004 had just incumbents running.

Miller’s question was answered in another story in the same edition.

“It’s very difficult to get Democrats to run for office in Hancock County,” said Mary Jane Roberts, interim chairwoman of the Hancock County Democratic Party. “They don’t feel they have a chance to win.

“We are trying to encourage more Democrats to get involved so we can have more support,” she said.

There you have it. People won’t run if they think they won’t win. But it is also true that you can’t win if you don’t run.

What the issue is, is the power of the incumbent and machine politics. There is a machine at the heart of Hancock county politics and the Republicans run it. They hold all the offices and with that they decide who runs and who can win.

Hancock county is a hard place for a new person to break into the politics. Mike Oxley wouldn’t have become the power he has become in the 4th District if he hadn’t been appointed to the House seat in 1981 upon the death of Tennyson Guyer. Oxley barely won the run-off election against the Democratic candidate who was better connected. The fact that Oxley was the incumbent made up for his lack of experience.

The reason the same people run for the same office year after year isn’t only about the lack of an opponent. It also speaks to how nothing changes in Hancock county. It wouldn’t matter which party was dominate as long as the status quo was maintained and in Hancock county it has.

What that means is the party affiliation has had no bearing on the success, or rather lack of problems, of the county.

John Sausser has been on the Findlay city council for years and served as Mayor in the 1970’s. He use to be a Democrat but now claims to be an independent. He had success as a Democrat because he worked hard to get elected and had views on the issues.

If a person has a choice of candidates and they each had views on maintaining the status quo then of course the incumbent is going to win for the simple fact that people won’t change their elected officials unless they have to. In Frankin county, the clerk of courts, a Republican, was caught stealing money. The voters voted in a Democrat to the job.

The problem with incumbents with no opposition is that it disenfranchises the voter. Why vote if Joe Smoe is going to win anyway?

The lack of participation leads to more races with no challengers which leads to less participation. It is in fact a threat to Democracy because we move the power of the offices into the hands of the Party rather than the voter. We go back to the days of the political machines, where it was who you knew and not what you would do that decided if you got elected to office.

Sad indeed.

Originally posted on the blog “Hancock County Politics Unfiltered”