Local Elections Matter

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey
via The Cookeville Times
Who’s got two thumbs and should scare the ever loving fool out of you no matter what your political persuasion? Yep, that guy, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey.

It’s not because he’s all powerful…he’s not, but that the power he wields is disproportionate to the number of people who voted for him. See, if you want to be Governor or Senator you need about a million votes in Tennessee, maybe more depending on the year. If you want to be the the second most powerful dude in the state how many votes do you need?

48,774 or less

That’s how many votes Ron Ramsey got in his 2008 State Senate election but he could have just as easily won with just over 19,000 votes and achieved the same thing. Some people like to show off more than others.

While Bill Haslam, Lamar Alexander, and Bob Corker have to go up to all the people of Tennessee and both defend their records and ask for their votes, all Ron Ramsey has to do is convince around 19,000 people in 2 of the state’s 95 counties that he’s the bomb, and have a leadership pac that distributes thousands of dollars to the people who ultimately will elevate you to the position of Speaker of the Senate. For this, and this alone, you too could be the “second” most powerful man in Tennessee.

I say “second” in quotations because in reality, Ron Ramsey led the way with his agenda, dragging Governor Bill Haslam behind him. Haslam knows that the people of Tennessee didn’t vote for him because they thought he was a firebrand, but because he was perceived as a moderate…with tons of money from his daddy’s business interests. Had Tennessee wanted a firebrand, they would have picked Ramsey to be the Republican nominee for Governor in the Republican Primary. The most Ramsey could muster was a mere 159,555 statewide or just under 22% of the 725,000 who voted in the primary. But firebrand is what we got, in the form of a Lt. Gov. who is using his position to push this state as far to the right as he possibly can.

If this isn’t a good enough illustration of why local elections matter, let me give you a couple more.

You may remember back in May the flap about Planned Parenthood funding. I’m not going to link all the articles, because quite frankly, there are too many of them, but here’s the long and the short of it: The legislature wanted to write out funding of Planned Parenthood, and were successful in Davidson Co. However, because Shelby Co. Health Dept. doesn’t have the capacity to provide Women’s Health Services on that scale, they were appropriated the money and the possibility of it potentially going to Planned Parenthood was out there, despite the whining of one Mr. Stacey Campfield.

Now some months later, we find out that the money will be awarded to someone else through the county. Now look, I’m not a doctor, and I’ve never been to any of Christ Community Health Services facilities, so I don’t know anything about them, but earlier in the year it was clear that there would be a political fight over this funding, despite what Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell claims in the Commercial Appeal article I linked above.

Don’t think for a minute that I won’t be looking deeper into this issue, who was appointed to the board, and their connections over the coming weeks.

The point is, if you live in Shelby County and support the mission of Planned Parenthood, which is fundamentally to provide low-cost healthcare services to women and thought, “Mark Luttrell is an ok dude, oh yeah, and he’s a moderate, he won’t muck it up too bad”, you were wrong. In fact, you were dead wrong. Nope, his administration just back doored the issue, to ensure his “image” didn’t take too much of a hit.

Local elections matter, and in that election Democrats decided not to show up. This is just one of the many consequences of that inaction. You reap what you sow.

For our last look at why local elections matter, we go to Pennsylvania.

Republicans in Pennsylvania hold 30 of the 50 seats in the State Senate and about 111 of the 203 seats in the House.

State Republicans, unhappy with the result of the 2008 Presidential election that sent all 21 of the state’s electoral votes to Barack Obama, have come up with a plan to beat him, or at least make it exceedingly hard to win.

2008 Election outcome by County
To the right is the 2008 Pennsylvania election results. You’ll notice that while Obama won the state, the majority of the area is red. This is due in large part to huge swaths of the state being largely rural. The power of the state’s urban populations turned the tide in the 2008 election.

But if, as suggested by Republicans in the State Legislature, the state’s electoral college votes were distributed by congressional district, after the Republicans get finished redistricting as many as 12 of those will likely go to the Republican nominee in 2012. That’s right, 12 of the 21. Imagine if this happened in purple states across the country? We might be dealing with President McCain right now rather than President Obama.

This is a Pennsylvania issue, and I don’t claim to know how these bodies were made up before, or to be an expert on Pennsylvania politics, that’s not the point. The 250 odd elections that set who would represent the people of Pennsylvania in their state legislature set the stage for this to happen. The impact will be felt nationally, even though it is a local issue. So if you’re one of those that thinks it’s ok to just sit out all those other elections and only vote in the Presidential, you’re sadly mistaken. They all matter. You likely won’t take your vote for President lightly, yet by taking these local elections lightly you may effectively be hindering your ability to elect the person you want in the White House.

Local elections matter.

Finally, I want to talk to my friends here in Shelby County.

You may have seen this piece about voter fatigue on Fox 13. I get it, we’ve been elected to death lately…well, for a couple of years actually. I don’t think 6 months has gone by in Memphis where there hasn’t been an election of some sort since 2007. I understand that with all the elections and distractions and real life happening, its hard to get motivated to get out and vote, especially when many of the contests themselves aren’t all that exciting, or garnering much news coverage.

Its hard to be an informed voter in that environment, but its really important that you try.

I know that people feel this City election is a foregone conclusion. I know that chances are, there won’t be much turnover at City Hall. But if you’re one of those people that’s not happy with their representation and you don’t get out and vote, you’re effectively voting for someone you don’t like. It’s that simple.

If you’re one of those, like myself, that wants real transformative change in this community, even though we may disagree on how to get there, you’ve gotta make your choices known. You’ve gotta work to get other people to do the same. If you don’t, we’ll keep on getting what we’ve always been getting, and that may not be what you want.

Now maybe, you think all the choices are bad, and you’re one of those, “a pox on all your houses” people. Like I said before, I’m not a doctor, but I understand the basics of contagion. If you’re wishing a pox on someone else, just know, that pox may come to roost in your home. Voting may not totally inoculate you from the pox, but it’s the only defense you have against the disease.

Early voting starts tomorrow. Here’s a handy map of the early voting locations. Get out, vote, and make your voice heard.

5 Replies to “Local Elections Matter”

  1. Very well written and on point. Noting angers me more then low voter turn out. Voting is the only defense we have against the disease…..

  2. I am new to the area. Where can I go to get information about this election? Back in Oregon we had the Voters Information Guide. Is there anything similar in Tennessee or Memphis?

  3. If you do visit the Coalition for a Better Memphis website to read their candidate ratings, please just keep in mind that the coaltion does a sort of backdoor endorsement of some candidates simply by publishing the position papers and questionnaire. There are several other candidates who, for whatever reason apparently unexplained on the website, are running but are not mentioned on that site.

    Some of the ones who are left off tend to be the ones whom I’d think the “establishment” has an unfavorable view, even though they may have some good ideas or positions.

    Perhaps you could visit the election commission website, find ALL the names on the ballot, then google to see if the candidate bothered to set up a website explaining his or her views; if they didn’t, they probably don’t care too much about winning.

    1. Good point Peck.

      Here’s the list of qualified candidates from the Shelby County Election Commission – http://shelbyvote.com/DocumentView.aspx?DID=871

      I expect that the Commercial Appeal will be releasing their endorsements this weekend or next. Also, several organizations have released endorsements, though the list is too long to even try to reproduce comprehensively.

      I will be looking to post as many of these endorsements as possible over the coming days, as well as my own recommendations.

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