With an early start to the election season, educate yourself on the candidates
By Greg Jackson, Esq.
How many of us, when we are looking for competent, professional services (i.e., doctor, mechanic, lawyer, plumber, accountant, etc.), would even consider using a person without first checking their professional background and pedigree? If you are anything like me, if you go to a doctor’s office and see a medical degree on the wall from a school you have never heard of or cannot pronounce, you will have no problem getting up and walking out. In fact, whenever my wife has been able to convince me to see a doctor, I spend the bulk of the time in the waiting and examination rooms looking around at the walls, checking for evidence of his or her experience and capabilities. The more degrees, articles, plaques, etc., I see from reputable publications, associations or institutions, the more comfortable I am with letting that person evaluate and make recommendations about how I should go about leading a healthier life. On one of the rare occasions when I ignored the tell-tale signs of a health care provider with “paper but-no-substance,” I ended up with an unnecessary procedure, wasted money and lost time that I can never recover. But I accepted fault for my failure to “vet” that person and figured I got what I deserved for not being more vigilant.
Unfortunately, with political candidates, it is much the same way. It is no secret that I have placed myself up for public scrutiny on two occasions when I sought elected office. I only did so after I figured I had the skill, knowledge, experience and time necessary to dedicate myself to serve the citizens of Central Florida. Basically, I had become the type of candidate that I would not have had any problem supporting. I also recognized that there were other candidates in the races that I ran in who had the qualities I could support. But (taking a pregnant pause), there were other candidates who I looked at and said, “If this is all we have to look forward to, not only is our district lost, but the future of our state is at risk.” The reason I say that is because many times the folks who should not run for office, do so for the very same reasons that they should not be seeking public office. They feel entitled, they have no other options, they lack the experience to be successful in the private sector, they are all over the place (figuratively and literally), they do not know issues, they want to validate themselves, they have an inflated perception of who they are and what they can do, and unfortunately the list goes on. Individuals like this are dangerous while running for office because of the things they are willing to do and say to offset their shortcomings. However, they are equally dangerous if they are actually elected to public office because they become distractions and feel that their way is the only way to go. Even more so, once in office, they feel as if no one can question their actions or motives as if they become untouchable. (Hey, that may be a good topic to explore in another piece – The Untouchables: How Elected Officials have Evolved from Public Servants to Public Distractions – but I digress.)
In short, all I am saying is this, as citizens we must make a concerted effort to educate ourselves on those who come forward to represent our community. Many times the candidates who come forth are good, upstanding citizens. Other times, which are the times we need to be very cognizant of, candidates who come forward are really just running because they lack the skills, experience, ethical fortitude, etc., to work in the private sector or any place else. If you ever have any doubts, here are some things to check for: If the candidate’s professional salary is less than that of the office they are running for, be cautious. If the candidate has never worked in the private sector, be cautious. If the candidate has personal financial issues, be cautious. If the candidate has a questionable background or history, be cautious. If the candidate says “I”, “me” and/or “my” more than he or she says “we”, “us” and “our”, be cautious. As the election cycle continues to pick up, I may find it necessary to provide more information to help our community to evaluate those seeking to represent us, and I will give my honest assessment of each, which of course will be done – in my humble opinion.
Greg Jackson is a past Assistant Attorney General for the State of Florida, military veteran, current Orange County District 2 Representative on the Board of Zoning Adjustments, and General Counsel for the Community Redevelopment Agency. He has been as an active member of the Central Florida community for nearly 20 years. He was most recently a candidate for the Florida House District 45 seat.