Opinion

Party affiliation doesn’t matter, character does | Publisher's column

Several years ago I received a call at my office from a prominent businessman in the Yelm area. He just asked to meet privately because he wanted to run something by me.

Intrigued, I said “sure,” and we set the date.

We met for lunch, traded the usual pleasantries about our respective families and jobs, eventually getting to a pause in the conversation.

He then told me he read my column faithfully, respected my opinions and was pondering a run for public office, specifically the Washington State Legislature.

He wanted to know what I thought about him as a candidate, how he should approach candidacy and my thoughts about what makes a good elected official.

He had never served in public office and wasn’t sure what to expect, or whether he would even be a viable candidate.

At first, I thought, “Why is he asking me this?”

I thought more about it, however, then I decided, “Why not me?” I’ve talked with many politicians throughout my newspaper career. I’ve been in some of their homes and looked many of them in the eyes and asked some tough questions.

I reached my own conclusions about who was a good elected representative, who was bad, and who was essentially punching a time clock. Party affiliation doesn’t matter to me. I rarely discuss my personal political beliefs with others, saving my thoughts for my column in the newspaper.

Our lunch wasn’t about politics anyway, so I shared my thoughts. I told him I believe the best leaders are those who are consistently forthright and honest about their positions on all the issues. There’s no gray area. They have the courage of their convictions.

They don’t vote to please their political party.

Engaged voters are savvy. They recognize honesty, integrity and character.

Constituents also want their political respresentatives to be accessible. When a politician is hiding behind his handlers, or isn’t accountable to voters, it taints the well, and eventually nobody wants to drink from it.

The worst politicians are those who don’t view themselves as public servants but rather elite rulers.

After lunch, we shook hands and headed separate directions. A few months later he announced his candidacy. He won handily and was easily reelected to a second term of office.

I think he gets it. He stands behind his beliefs publicly and in private. Whenever we had questions for an article, or I had a matter to discuss with him, he was accessible.

I think he proves that good guys — and women — do have a place in public office.

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