While canvassing, the two most asked questions of me are, “Are you running against Ellen Waxman [or] Stacey Elliott?” and “Are you a Democrat or a Republican?,” which is closely followed up with, “I only vote for [insert party affiliation].”
The first question is concerning with respect to unconscious gender bias. There are 11 candidates running for five at-large seats, of which eight are men and three are women.
Where does this question come from?
Is a woman only capable of running against another woman? Did this country not just witness Hillary Clinton run for president against a man not once, but twice?
There are five seats that belong to the voters of the town of North Kingstown. Those five seats do not belong to a particular candidate or a party. Gender should have zero factor in the equation. Qualification and leadership should be the leading considerations for voters. Diversity is important, but not when it inserts an incompetent person in lieu of a qualified one.
The second question is equally troubling.
A confident, well-informed voter typically identifies with some, but not all, values of a particular party – most of those values are arguably national-level conversations. Leanings that define how we identify include, and are not limited to, abortion, the Second Amendment, labor/trade, immigration and social progress.
Both groups of voters should know that they have been profiled by both parties as to their voting strength or weakness and that information is made available in databases provided by both parties to candidates and committee members at all levels. The voter who decides to vote based on party affiliation only, with no regard for the credential of a candidate, is a danger to the entire system.
Voters should be concerning themselves with the following: Is the candidate actively participating in Town Council meetings? Do they have legitimate credentials in business or education, or other accomplishments? Is the candidate financially stable in their personal and business life? Do they have a past criminal record? Is the candidate informed on the issues that are most immediately important to the voter? Is the candidate accessible and responsive to constituents?
Sometimes, the most qualified candidate comes from the “other team,” and that doesn’t make voting for them wrong. What is wrong is voting unqualified and unstable people into office, by which they gain access to the taxpayer checkbook with voting privileges.
I could have run for higher office and I seriously considered it. The GOP has vetted me for Senate and House seats since 2010. I chose to stay local because I am committed to the town I grew up in, was educated in, own a home and business and pay residential and commercial taxes in. I am invested in “being” local. Are you?
If a candidate makes the effort to knock on your door, I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity to have a deeper conversation with him/her.
Mary Brimer is a candidate for Town Council in North Kingstown.