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The service challengers do

November 04, 2004

The polls have closed, most of the votes are counted and another election is over. Just as when a thunderstorm is over, the temptation now is to breathe a sigh of relief that all of the shouting is over, at least for a little while.

By all means, do that, but first say a word of thanks to those people who weren't elected, especially the first-time challengers.

Consider that the incumbents know what it is to run a campaign - and what it will cost in time, money and the loss of personal privacy. Challengers have to hope they get some help from people who have been there before, or who don't mind working twice as hard to make up for the experience the campaign doesn't have.

That they do it anyway is to the great benefit of all citizens. Without an opponent, an incumbent doesn't have to defend his or her record. Without an opponent, incumbents can be vague about what they plan to do in their next term.

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And, without an opponent, there is a chance that the incumbent will decide that there was no challenger because he or she is doing such a wonderful job no one would think of running against them.

The truth is that many challengers can't afford to do what they'd like to because they have to make a living. Not every boss wants to hear that a worker who's also an elected official can't make the weekly sales meeting because there's a public hearing being held at the same time.

U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, this week said that after the election, the nation needs to end the name-calling and demonizing and work together on the problems all Americans face.

Thank goodness there wasn't much of that in local campaigns, but it occurs to us that one way to begin healing the divide is to invite those who didn't win election to participate in government in other ways.

Some may only want to leave the arena, while others would welcome the chance to contribute. Let's take advantage of these citizens' interest in government by giving them something meaningful to do outside of elected office.

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