Editorial: Competition can make us stronger

Mar. 15, 2014 @ 11:29 PM

Vance County’s elected leadership has received a ringing endorsement from area residents.

Eight of the races include the sheriff, school board and the commissioners. Only two are contested. Carolyn Faines will challenge incumbent Gloria White for the District 1 school board seat, and Anthony Scott Hughes is opposing Tommy Hester for the District 7 commissioner seat.

That’s it.

By not producing a candidate, the county indirectly gave full endorsement to the jobs done by Sheriff Peter White; school board members Darlynn Oxendine, Margaret Ellis and Ruth Hartness; and commissioners Gordon Wilder and Dan Brummitt.

In elections, The Dispatch endorses competition and participation. And in this election season that will be roundly absent in 75 percent of significant local contests.

Rich debate on the topics related to each office will be absent as well. The issues of our community deserve our attention, and how our leadership will respond to them is equally important.

Candidates’ responses, how they are challenged, can’t possibly be the same with no competition in the election. We would rather see them take a stand and be held accountable for that.

Serving and connecting with the people happens when trying to secure votes, and it also happens between election cycles. Perhaps we’re fine with the current connection.

But while the ideas before us may be very good, the lack of competition won’t guarantee we’ve gotten other views. How can we know?

In a newspaper interview a couple of years ago, Michael Munger made a very good point regarding lack of competition.

“Towns are inherently conservative places, not in a political ideology sense, but in a ‘let’s keep things the same’ sense,” said the former gubernatorial candidate and past chairman of Duke’s political science department. “What that means, of course, is that things can stagnate, and the quality of life in the town deteriorates. Competition is uncomfortable, makes you think of new things, and answer questions. It’s easier just to stick with what you know. But in the long run, that’s a recipe for mediocrity, for a shrinking town and failed businesses. You need contested elections as a challenge to that natural desire to leave things as they are, instead of growing, and changing, and getting better.”

We’ll call it one more hurdle for Vance County.