OPINION COLUMNS

Skip the party at local level

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, March 5, 2016
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About 15 years ago, I was regularly visiting school campuses in northeast Denton County, and on those visits I’d usually bump into deputies from the Precinct 5 constable office.

The then-Democratic office holder, Mike Ballard, was dedicated to helping schools with truancy on top of the usual duties of the office.

Richard Greene

Richard Greene

But come November 2004, the straight-party voting public of the fast-growing southeast portion of the precinct ended Ballard’s tenure. When he left office, so did the assistance for local school districts.

While the complete takeover of the county by a single party was inevitable and not surprising, it left me wondering – why are local offices partisan to begin with?

The question occurred to me again when going to the polls this week.

Why is a person forced into a primary vote to choose a sheriff candidate or commissioner on a ballot with presidential candidates?

Do we really care or is there a need for us to know the social values of a sheriff or commissioner? What I want to know from a sheriff is if they know the law, can provide leadership for a department and manage expenses. That has nothing to do with being Republican or Democrat. Whether a commissioner can properly manage a precinct barn, keep the roads in good shape and balance a budget has very little to do with a stance on abortion or foreign policy.

Thankfully, we don’t bog down municipal or school board elections with partisan politics. We allow the whole voting public at once to decide on the candidates that best serve us and set tax rates.

The issue that bothers me the most with county offices being in the primary is the division of voters electing candidates.

Case in point was Tuesday’s primary. With more than 1,200 voters taking part in the Democratic primary to cast ballots for their presidential choice, they were not given an opportunity to vote in the sheriff, commissioner or constable races that will be uncontested in November.

So in other words, more than 10 percent of the voters did not get a voice in a race that will affect them more directly than who is in the White House.

Conversely, some of the voters that did cast ballots in local races couldn’t support their favorite presidential candidate because they had to pick a party.

On a local level, let’s remove the party tags and just pick the best people for the job.

Richard Greene is the Messenger’s sports editor.

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