Finding the “Right” Candidate

Throughout this seemingly endless electoral campaign, most Americans were told more than they ever wanted to know about the deficiencies of the two major-party candidates for the presidency. (I say “most Americans” because some of our friends and neighbors somehow managed to remain uninformed, under-informed, and undecided into the last days of the campaign; so clearly those voters were somehow not hearing much of anything about the candidates.)

From the beginning of the GOP primaries, Republicans, from the national leadership and major donors to the average citizen, tied themselves in knots over whether Mitt Romney was the “right” candidate to defeat President Obama. Although there were many questions about whether Romney was a “true” conservative, by “right” I simply mean the best choice.

But today I came across a CBS news item that would seem to make the search for the “right” candidate largely moot—at least on the local level.

The article reports that two candidates—for commissioner in an Alabama county and for tax collector in a Florida county—have been elected to office even though they are both already dead.

In Bibb County, Alabama, Republican Charles Beasley, who died on October 12, defeated Democrat Walter Sansing for county commissioner. Beasley received 52% of the vote, and Sansing, 48%. In Bibb County, Romney outpolled Obama 72% to 27%; so to his credit, at least Samsing was able to make a much better showing against a dead Republican.

In Orange County, Florida, Democrat Earl K. Wood won his 12th term as tax collector, defeating an unidentified Republican by a 56% to 44% margin. Wood, who was 96 when he died on October 15, had been criticized for rarely coming to work while collecting both a $150,000 salary and a $90,000 pension. It makes you wonder what his opponent’s perceived deficiencies must have been. For Wood received only marginally fewer votes than Obama, who carried the county 59% to 40%.

I could flippantly speculate on the advantages to running dead candidates for office. (For instance, it would cut down on at least some of the gaffes, and it might enliven the debates.)

But now that we seem somehow to have convinced unprecedented numbers of Americans to vote in several successive presidential elections, I hesitate to do anything that might make anyone take our elections and our right to vote less seriously.

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