OPINION – I didn’t wake up that morning intending to run for mayor. But with a few minutes to spare, late in the afternoon, I filed the official paperwork.
Though it was a quick decision, it was not a particularly easy one.
I didn’t want to be a politician. I do not find my purpose in exercising power over others and I’m distrustful of power-seekers. Politics seems to taint everything it touches by turning it into a power struggle.
I understood that my writing and radio careers would be obstacles to being a candidate. This is understandable in that having regular access to a public forum without equal time would not be fair to all candidates.
I learned that I would have to step away from my two primary sources of making a living for up to a four-month period if I survived the primary election. My wife and I carefully examined our options and, in the end, decided that earning a living would have to take precedence over politics.
Six days later, with equal parts of disappointment and relief, I filed my affidavit to withdraw from the race.
One of the more curious comments I received upon withdrawing from the mayor’s race said, “I’m glad you’re no longer running, it would have diminished your circle of influence.”
I honestly don’t know if I would have been electable in the first place. But that’s not why I wanted to run.
I entered the Cedar City mayor’s race to help shape and influence the discussion about the proper role of local government. If nothing else, my participation was to prove that we don’t have to be career politicians in order have a voice in local governance.
This is important since local government is one of the last places where we can still be heard.
National and even state politics are too dominated by special interests. Who is more likely to get an actual conversation with a politician: you and your principles, or the lobbyist who is bearing a large check?
James Altucher was considering a run for Congress and ultimately came to the conclusion that it was a waste of his time. There were some realizations that he came to during his 3 months of exploratory work.
In talking with seasoned campaign strategists, Altucher discovered that winning elections is not about telling the public who you are and what you stand for. They don’t care. It’s about figuring out what likely voters want to hear and repeating it back to them.
Altucher wrote: “I suddenly felt like I was no longer choosing myself. I was getting anxious about other people choosing/endorsing me and I had to jump through weird hoops I didn’t agree with to make it happen.”
This warped reality is found at all levels of political office.
In an ideal world, our principles would remain firm. But in the reality of modern governance, not everyone shares our principles. This means that there must be give and take.
For instance, Cedar City devotes around $2 million of its annual budget to the Utah Shakespeare Festival. In principle, the idea of a public entity using taxpayer money to benefit one private business over others sounds a lot like legal plunder. On the practical side, USF brings in many millions of dollars in revenue into the local economy.
This arrangement works well for the city and it’s a safe bet there are no complaints from the USF. Anyone who suggested that this needed to change would find it impossible to get elected.
So does that mean that someone who supports the city donating to the USF also supports legal plunder? Not necessarily, but this is one example of how principles alone aren’t the only consideration. Most elected leaders quickly learn that decisions are not made in a vacuum.
My short-lived campaign left me with a couple of impressions. The first was of how many good and dedicated leaders exist within our communities. Many are not elected, but all of them choose to make time to be involved locally. Their example is worth following.
The second impression was that running for public office is a giant step outside of the comfort zone. Not sure what your greatest insecurities might be? File the paperwork and I assure you that they will visit you in the night while you’re trying to sleep.
Sticking your neck out is seldom easy. But it’s more likely to pay off at the local level than any where else.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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