Most of Northeast Mississippi’s municipalities begin their city election today with party primaries, and many seats will be vacated and change because of retirements, or incumbents’ seats will be challenged in the primary and general election in June.
It’s the kind of election in which almost every candidate is known by a significant portion of the voting-age population in their cities, towns and villages.
In our region, which has no metropolitan areas and the largest city, Tupelo, has fewer than 40,000 people, municipal politics tends to sustain the wisdom of the late U.S. House speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill that “all politics is local.”
O’Neill was explaining how problems in towns and cities around the nation affect actions and votes of their representatives and senators in Washington.
O’Neill, however, was a product of even more localized politics, in which voters in smaller political subdivisions or geographic regions elected people because of commonalities of concern that were not derived from or focused on national issues.
As scores of candidates across the region have stressed face-to-face in walking campaigns and in various advertising, most of the emphasis is on quality of life and quality of municipal service issues. The topics are streets, parks and recreation, delivery of services, and bottom-line growth relating to the economic well-being of individuals and households.
Municipal races in our region usually do not come close to matching the money spent for regional or statewide races – the emphasis is on personal knowledge of and trust of candidates.
In the book, “Winning Elections: Political Campaign Management, Strategy and Tactics,” author Robert Faucheux concludes that “fewer than half of American voters fully understand the issues and decide for whom to vote based on a candidate’s personal traits or other factors.”
That finding strongly suggests two necessities:
- Candidates must demonstrate in their personality and character how issues would be shaped in the office they seek; and,
- Transparency about personal issues – background and previous service, elective or civic – is essential as a predictor of political leadership.
While some voters don’t analyze issues, a firm stand on important topics is necessary.
Every city should expect cooperation on city boards and councils. Strident dissent is simply not necessary. A factionalized board or council is almost certainly one in which pettiness, special interests, and personality have pushed ideas and best choices aside.
We also believe party labels are largely irrelevant in municipal elections. There’s nothing overtly partisan about adequate city services or vision. The vote should be about community and its best interests.
NEMS Daily Journal