Candidates should know to shop locally

Published 1:05 am Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Freedom has its consequences, just like everything else in life.

Our great nation’s laws so revolve around the freedom of every citizen and the voice of every man or woman that sometimes those free folks are surprised to hear just how few rules there actually are governing our government.

For example, almost anyone can run for any local office and almost anyone can be elected.

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Supervisor and clerk candidates must meet only three qualifications to run: 1. Be a registered voter, 2. Never have been convicted of a crime punishable by confinement in the penitentiary and 3. Never have been convicted of a felony in federal court or in the court of another state.

Note there is no mention of even obtaining a high school diploma.

A few other offices do have to be a high school graduate or have obtained a GED — justice court judge, coroner — but no further educational standards are required.

It’s easy to argue that we’d be wise as a state to exercise our freedom to implement just a few more qualifications to that list. Education and experience should top the list, but a third requirement has been on my mind lately.

I’d word it something like this: Candidates seeking office must exhibit basic knowledge of how sales tax dollars impact the local community and commit, now, to spend all election dollars locally.

Most folks on Tuesday’s ballot would breeze past my qualification just fine.

But several, including a few I thought should know better, would have to spend an afternoon with City Clerk Donnie Holloway and perhaps the local police and fire chief to understand why it’s important to shop locally.

The job of typing in page after page of campaign finance reports fell to me last week, and I couldn’t help but cringe occasionally when I flipped to pages listing the places candidates had spent their money — some of which may have been donated by you.

On the list of those who benefited from Tuesday’s primary election were: Baton Rouge; Long Bottom, Ohio; Jackson; Davenport, Iowa; Livingston, Mont.; Rock Island, Ill.; and Austin, Texas.

Those cities collected a combined $6,297.61 of local dollars. Most of the disbursements were to the online websites of sign printing companies.

Another $3,099.81 was spent in Bude at The Cap Co. You could argue that’s local enough to be OK.

Still more money went to stores and shops in Vidalia. I’m OK with that; it’s still the Miss-Lou.

However, the local print shops, T-shirt makers and even food distributors sure can’t be blamed if they cast a free vote Tuesday against those candidates who went to the web for services that could have been provided locally.

Sure, online websites may be cheaper. But when you are running for a public office in which your pay check will be fueled entirely by the tax dollars of local residents, you should be required to spend campaign dollars at home.

Candidates who realize that are qualified for office.

Those more interested in the bottom line of the campaign account instead of the bottom line for the community they hope to help lead might be better off sitting out the next election cycle.

I doubt my qualification will be added anytime soon. Education should probably come first anyway.

But I’m certainly free to consider where the money is spent before casting my next vote, and I hope you’ll consider doing the same.

Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or