Across Colorado, budding candidates for city and town councils and school boards are wrapping up the process of gathering signatures for their nomination petitions. These citizens are working to get their names on the ballot for this November's election, and ultimately, they are trying to win a spot on an elected board that comes with little or no pay.
Voters will pick from among these candidates without a party affiliation listed for the candidates. Further, a search for candidate information on the Secretary of State's Tracer website yields the term “nonpartisan” next to the category “party.” Indeed, these are officially nonpartisan elections they are hoping to compete in.
But don't be fooled: There are partisan races being waged for municipal and school board offices in this state. Colorado law does not prohibit a candidate from campaigning as a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or member of any other party.
In other words, a candidate can tout that he or she is a member of a certain party, secure that party's endorsement and even run among a slate of candidates looking to grab or maintain power for that party on an elected board. And voters who have been paying attention are not likely to need a party affiliation listed on their ballots to know who represents Team Blue or Team Red or Team Other.
While it is not illegal, we believe this process violates the spirit of election law. The real spirit of serving on a city council or a school board, as we wrote in an editorial last month, should be a noble calling to public service - to make a community better. It is not promoting the platform of a major, national political organization.
We believe local politics should be about people, not parties.
It is particularly a shame when partisanship rears up to narrow the pool of candidates in an attempt to prevent votes from being split. Sure, when a party encourages someone not to run, it is a pragmatic move in that it increases the likelihood of achieving a victory. But it also suppresses diversity of thought and likely keeps some very well-intentioned, capable citizens from public service.
Don't get us wrong. We're not saying every local campaign has been taken over by partisanship. Just too many — regardless of what that number is.
For now, we encourage candidates who feel a true calling to serve to stick with it. There's nothing wrong with being a member of a political party, but if you are truly dedicated to helping the community, don't let your affiliation dictate whether you will seek office. If you win, don't let it determine how you will serve.
Come November, we encourage voters to simply choose the best person for the job.