I received a letter recently from Edward Watkins of Ledyard, Connecticut. Mr. Watkins writes:
Connecticut Public Radio ran a report tonight that, throughout Connecticut, very few races for local offices even have contenders this year. They contributed it to two factors: (1) low pay in local government offices compared to private sector pay in a booming economy, (2) the high cost of conducting LOCAL campaigns. I would like to add my own important third factor: lack of term limits. Why should any normal person, who wants to be a productive citizen, attempt to run when incumbents have such a large advantage? Public service, it seems, is out the window!
Thanks for the letter Ed. The whole point of pay is to attract qualified candidates. That’s true in business and it’s true for any political job, too. So when some argue that the problem causing a lack of competition is low pay, we can easily test that theory. If the theory is valid, when a council seat opens up, we would have few candidates.
Yet, what we see is that there are plenty of candidates running for office when no incumbent stands in the way. That’s the reality. When incumbents hold power term after term there is little competition regardless of pay or even the relative cost of campaigns. There may indeed be places where the pay is too low, but usually the pay is too high. If we want more electoral competition, we need more open seats. We need term limits.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.