As election season heats up, candidates are running around to events and forums, going door-to-door, distributing yard signs, and blasting your Facebook and email.
Oftentimes, candidates for positions like mayor, city commissioner, or County Council or School Board member are asked “What party are you?”
The answer should be: “It doesn’t matter. This is a nonpartisan race, and local concerns do not align with partisan politics.”
I invited myself to the Heart of Florida Federated Republican Women campaign forum the other night, and the organizer graciously said yes. After I had worked the room and hugged several candidates (Republican and Democratic) whom I consider friends, I was going to just lurk in the back.
But, another organizer, probably not recognizing me as the second-highest-ranking elected Democrat in Volusia County (which isn’t saying much, actually), ushered me to sit down in the last empty seat — front row center!
Here is what I observed: The Republican Women are concerned about out-of-control growth and development. They worry that we might run out of water. They are concerned about how to keep our children safe at school. They want accountability for how our tax dollars are spent.
They want leaders who will have a vision for the future of our communities, and who will set policies that provide a certain “quality of life” (whatever that means).
I hear these same concerns voiced by Democrats. Perhaps the partisan devils are in the details for how to address those concerns, which can’t be explained in a candidate’s one-minute answer in a forum.
I make similar observations in my neighborhood: Based on the 2020 presidential-election results from my precinct, I surmise that the majority of residents in this HOA are Republicans.
Our homeowners worry about growth and development in the southeast quadrant of DeLand (yes, we recognize the hypocrisy). We all have concerns about our water supply (internal and regional) and the environmental conditions of our ponds. We have angst over our 20-year-old infrastructure, and we all demand accountability for how our dues are spent.
In short, we desire to preserve our “quality of life” (whatever that means).
Here’s the takeaway: Regardless of which political tribe we might identify with, when it comes to local issues, we all care about the same things. Whether it’s within our HOA or an entire city, we recognize that we are in crisis mode, and it’s never wise to start a fight in a burning building.
Democracy is alive at the local level. The gutsy people who run for local elected offices are our neighbors and friends who care deeply about their communities and are willing to give their time and heart to serve us.
Most of them are truly good people. It doesn’t really matter which political party they are registered with. But the candidates do have different ideas and different records from their professional lives and community roles that demonstrate how they will lead our communities to ensure that we maintain whatever it is we mean by “quality of life.”
So, don’t ask them, “What party are you?” Ask them, “How do you define ‘quality of life’ for our community, and how will you protect it, even as we grow into the future?”
Check out candidates’ websites and social media. Attend forums (like the DeLand mayoral debate The Beacon is co-hosting). Respond to candidates’ emails.
Who will be DeLand’s mayor?
Meet the candidates at forum at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 21, in the Stetson Room in the Carlton Union Building, 131 E. Minnesota Ave., on the Stetson University campus.
Then, show up and vote Tuesday, Aug. 23, (or vote early or by mail!), and choose wisely, because the future of our communities depends on it.
— Anderson is a professor of environmental science and studies at Stetson University, and chair of the Volusia Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors.