The votes are tallied, the victors are getting ready to assume — or return to — seats on a commission dais or the judicial bench. For some primary winners, the race is not over. For them, it’s game on as they gear up to face the opponents from the other party — the most high-profile, high-stakes race being the face-off between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic challenger Charlie Crist, now that it’s official. (Of course, it’s been “official” for Mr. Crist ever since he jumped into the race. He ignored opponent Nan Rich for most of the campaign.)
For those assuming office for the first time, such as Daniella Levine Cava, who unseated Miami-Dade Commissioner Lynda Bell, we hope that they master the learning curve by taking care and paying attention. As always, they should put their constituents first.
It’s customary to say “may the best man or woman win.” Unfortunately, this election season, the superlative “best” must be put in context. The Editorial Board interviewed almost 100 candidates leading up to Tuesday’s primary in order to make its recommendations to voters in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
It’s a long and illuminating process in which Board members hear directly from the candidates, get to scrutinize their professional careers and accomplishments and, before making any final choices, background themselves by talking to other professionals in the community who have worked with the individual candidates.
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And time and again, too many candidates — but not all, by any means — shared one troubling trait: mediocrity. Attorneys running for judge despite scant trial experience; solo practitioners who seemed tired of having to drum up business and saw a judgeship as a nice, steady gig; term-limited lawmakers looking to land in the next elected post — any elected post — whether or not it was a good fit; one-issue candidates who would have no sway over their limited concern in the post for which they were running.
Others brought personal and professional missteps that were deal-killers — though, sometimes, they weren’t.
Unfortunately, it not just a simple matter of who won and who lost in the primaries. It’s a matter of, What next? Because with ho-hum candidates — some of whom emerged victorious — comes a distinct lack of vision beyond parochial, pothole issues. There was little big-picture discussion of how Miami-Dade and Broward counties should position themselves in the global economy; little vision of establishing the state an economic powerhouse.
Why do people of accomplishment and vision increasingly leave politics to the lesser lights? The lack of privacy is one reason, the cost and the viciousness of some campaigns are two others. On local level, the benefits of electing commissioners from districts can morph into a liability when few are focused on the county as a whole. At the legislative level, term limits have the upside of giving others a chance to serve. However, if a lawmaker is thinking about his or her next job at the end of eight years, then it’s awfully easy to do the bidding of deep-pocketed supporters and corporations that just might come through with a lucrative job offer. What’s best for constituents might not be a priority.
Fighting in the political arena is not for the thin-skinned. But in the past, visionary men and women of courage stepped up to make the state and its municipalities livable, progressive places to be. Those people still exist, toiling instead as volunteers and civic leaders. Here’s hoping they consider this a call to even greater action.