About a year from now I’ll be up for re-election as alderman of the 24th ward. As you may know, I ran as an independent candidate (no party affiliation) in the last election in 2011. I was fortunate to be the only candidate in recent memory to win while running as an independent. I’m still very grateful for the awesome volunteers who helped.
Political parties obviously serve a very important role at the national and state level. Parties serve as a shorthand for what candidates think and value. Even if you don’t know much about a candidate, you know something about them if you know their party.
At the local level, its not so clear that parties communicate the same kind of information to voters. Primary elections tend to be between two or three democrats in St. Louis, so you can’t differentiate candidates based on their party. At the same time, its not very clear what the democratic party agenda is for St. Louis. Is the party for reform of local government? Campaign donation limits? What’s the democratic party position on how much parking new development should have? Should we make it easier to permit some home businesses like photography or graphic design? No one knows, because there is no party position. Yet these are the kinds of questions local government handles.
So in summary, I’m not a big fan of political parties in local elections, because I think they are kind of irrelevant. They don’t mean the same thing they do in national elections. Local government is not about ideology, its about service delivery. I’d rather see non-partisan elections where people had to specifically communicate what their agenda or goals are for an elected position, rather than relying a party identification.
Nevertheless, I’m going to be running as a Democrat in the next election. Why? Not being in a party has two main disadvantages. One is that I can’t move up the Board of Aldermen seniority list, and can’t ever get a committee chair without being in a party. The other is I don’t have the same ability to influence the majority party if I’m not a member.
From where I sit though, nothing is changing. I still plan on being outspoken and candid on issues I care about, and I hope to have your support in the spring primary and general elections in 2015. Perhaps there’s even a small chance being within the party will make me slightly more influential. Who knows?
24th Ward Alderman
24th Ward Alderman