Column: What's important about how you cast your ballot

"What luck for rulers that men do not think...."- Adolph Hitler

It's time for me to discuss Carson City's primary elections, not that anything earth-shaking has happened. It all went pretty much as expected. But now that we're looking at the general election in early November, I will once again attempt to give you readers some insight into the most important attributes for your consideration when deciding which candidates for whom to vote. However, before doing that, I want to make a couple of comments on the primary.

The mayor race was the least surprise of all. It's tough for relative newcomers to break the elective ice no matter how bright or qualified they may be. While this is frustrating to newcomer hopefuls who have good credentials and supreme confidence in their own abilities, it's standard procedure everywhere. When I was elected to the Assembly in 1982, I had lived in Carson City for just 10 years and found that some voters still considered me a carpetbagger.

I was delighted to see that Michelle Trusty-Murphy was eliminated from the state school board race. In my opinion, she's just another smoke-blower. Of course, I don't really believe Nevada needs a state school board, but if we must have one, then Dave Cook is an excellent educator who has our students' best interests at heart. He may not be a glad-handed political type like his ex-Clark County counterpart, Bill Hanlon, but he's a respected, seasoned educator worthy of our support.

And it was great to see Robey Willis receive such overwhelming voter support. Carson City has been blessed with outstanding justices of the peace over the past several years; Tom Davis, John Ray, Robey Willis and John Tatro, to name the ones I remember. These guys were and are tough, fair judges and approachable human beings at the same time, truly custodians of "the peoples'" court. I hope we never abolish justice courts or require justices of the peace to be lawyers.

Now, to get back to the main purpose of today's essay, let's take a look at the qualities we should look for in our political candidates before we decide to vote for any of them. But before I begin, please know that I don't subscribe to this business that everybody should vote because it's supposedly our "duty." Without your knowing why you voted for a particular party or candidate, a no vote is better for society than a stupid vote, the only caveat being, if you don't vote then don't complain about how things turn out!

I think the main attribute for any candidate is his or her ability to understand and see the whole picture, as opposed to only a small portion of the picture. In other words, is the candidate a single issue (like education, or the bypass, or the bike path or overdevelopment, or parks, or downtown redevelopment, etc.) candidate or does he or she truly appreciate the relationship between all of these things working at odds simultaneously?

How about taxation? Or infrastructure? All of these issues not only overlap but require financial tradeoffs and compromises. The one thing newly elected officials soon discover is that no matter how frugal and anti-tax they may be in their personal views, there is never enough money to do all that, in the opinions of their beloved constituents, needs to be done.

In the legislature, those who may be mainly concerned with education, and education is always a major issue because of the costs involved, are also going to be called upon to analyze and vote on many other kinds of issues which are equally important in the big picture. This is why teachers, in my considered opinion, are among our weakest legislator. They focus almost exclusively on public education, and being tax takers (their incomes are derived from tax dollars), they are so isolated from the world in which we taxpayers live they can't understand why we aren't always ready to cough up more and more money.

Background is also very important in considering candidates. While formal education can be important, it isn't as important as successful business or job experiences, and the more varied those experiences, the better. After all, most of us taxpayers aren't lawyers or educators. We're working stiffs who need to be represented by those to whom we can directly relate.

As the general election approaches, you may be sure your old curmudgeon will be analyzing the most important races. The biggest problem you're going to have is being objective about candidates you instinctively like and then voting for someone else who is better qualified. I know most of the game players quite well. I'll give you the inside facts. Stay tuned.

Bob Thomas is a Carson City businessman, local curmudgeon and former member of the Carson City School Board and Nevada State Assembly.


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