2009-08-06 / Letters to the Editor

Time for nonpartisan elections

Over the past several weeks, we have seen the local political parties begin their efforts to secure candidates for the election this November. While the Democrats usually have a full slate, the Republicans, in recent years, have run short.

A few elections back, the Republicans actually ran a Democrat who happened to be listed as a Republican because of voting in a Republican presidential primary. Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers, they say, and besides, that person was elected.

Which got me to thinking about how that would happen. How does a person whose ideology is with one party agree to run, and get elected, for a party that represents the opposite side of the spectrum?

As a former candidate who came within a few votes of being elected on two occasions, I had some interest in understanding this unusual phenomenon of what I call “party cross over.”

My research led me to the success of former Councilor Kenneth C. Abrahamson, who served Jamestown from 1977 to 1987. He was elected to the Town Council five times and has the distinction of being elected as a candidate for both parties and as an independent.

Now it’s well known that incumbents have a distinct advantage in being re-elected, but to switch parties and get elected and then run without any party affiliation and still get elected? That’s something special.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet Mr. Abrahamson and I immediately understood why he was so successful in communicating to voters his dedication to their best interests.

He didn’t care about liberal or conservative issues; those ideologies had nothing to do with the day-to-day needs of Jamestowners. Those are national issues, not local.

With that in mind, I started to review other multiple-term council members that I’ve met and spent time with. They included Arthur Clarke, Charlotte Richardson, Jerry McIntyre, Mark Liberati, Fred Pease, Guy Settipane, Ken Littman, David Long and Council President Julio Di- Giando.

In all the meetings with those listed above, I never once discussed the issues and needs of Jamestown in terms of their political party idealism. Each of them clearly strived to do the best job they could for the community they live in and love.

When it comes to local elections, one thing is consistent. We all love Jamestown and want the best for it. There is no Republican way to love your community and no Democrat way to love your community.

So if a candidate in local elections can cross over from one party to the other and still serve with the best intentions, then why should we have partisan elections at all? Why not eliminate the party for our local offi ces and embrace non-partisan candidates?

Newport has been non-partisan for several decades. Yes, they still have Republican and Democrat committees that endorse people, but candidates do not list affiliations on the local ballot. Anybody can run for office.

Being a small community, most anyone can come up with the financial resources to run a campaign. From my own experience, a handful of supporters can be just as effective as an official party committee.

I believe Jamestown has a large resource of candidates who have not stepped forward because they do not want to be identified with a party ideology. We could have people lined up well in advance, if we did not expect them to affiliate with a party in order to serve the community they love.

Let’s consider the potential of a non-partisan campaign season and the benefits of eliminating the stigma of affiliation and the community-dividing strategies of party politics.
Sav Rebecchi
Jamestown

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