The Importance of Sept. 13

August 10, 1994

State Sen. John A. Cade, R-Severna Park, stood up at a candidates' forum at the Odenton Volunteer Fire Co. last week and entreated voters not to forget that local elections are just as important as presidential contests.

With little more than a month to go before the Sept. 13 primary, the senator's point bears repeating.

If history is any indication, 30 percent fewer voters will turn out for the upcoming election than showed up two years ago, when Bill Clinton and George Bush ran for president. County and state races -- even a gubernatorial race -- just don't draw people to the voting booth the way a presidential race does. As Senator Cade noted, "Thirty percent of the people who turn out for elections in Washington seem to think that's it."

The truth is that local elected representatives -- the county executive, your county councilperson, state delegate and state senator -- have a far greater and more immediate impact on your everyday life than do the president or your congressperson. They decide whether a new school gets built in your community or whether your local library branch's hours have to be cut back. They decide if the cow pasture next door can be rezoned for a factory. They are responsible for patching potholes and making sure police protection is sufficient to let you feel secure in your own back yard.

The 1994 local campaign has gotten off to a slow start. Between the quietness of the campaign thus far and the fact that people are preoccupied with vacations at this time of year, even those who take their right to vote seriously probably haven't been paying much attention to the candidates -- the more than 100 people running for major local state and county offices. This is the time to learn who they are. Forums, such as the ones being sponsored tonight by the West County Chamber of Commerce at the Piney Orchard Visitors Center and Aug. 30 by the Civic Associations of Annapolis at City Hall, are an ideal way to do that.

Primary elections always get short shrift from voters, even in presidential years; less than half of all eligible voters turn out for them. But we cannot complain about the quality of our representation if we are not willing to invest the time and energy to make sure the best candidates succeed. The primary is a crucial part of that process.

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