Presidents, governors, and senators get all the press, but the low-profile officeholders can cause real havoc, too
While high-profile, "top of the ballot" offices such as president, governor, senator and so on often receive huge amounts of public attention, the lower-profile, downballot offices that average voters don't care much about are the ones that can do the most good for, or inflict the most damage upon, society.
Those top of the ballot offices are usually "policy" jobs and are often, though not always, checked by other "policy" jobs - governors and presidents have to work with legislative bodies, and legislators have other legislators and the executive branch to deal with.
However, many of downballots offices are more "staff" jobs, existing to perform a specific government function. Jobs like secretary of state (at the state level, not national), county clerk, judge, and more are frequently filled by election. One of the arguments in favor of electing people to those offices over appointing them is to minimize the instances of judges or elections officials using their offices to improperly benefit their "appointers." It doesn't always work out that way, however.
The holders of those offices usually toil in relative obscurity unless something goes very wrong.
By now, almost everyone has heard of the scandal in obscure Bell, California where certain unscrupulous members of the city government, led by the city manager, essentially looted the city's treasury until the veil of obscurity was removed.
Even lower profile than that are some of the abuses of power from some county tax assessors across the country, almost all of whom are elected officials.
Sometimes, the abuses of power involved take a form other than what is conventionally considered "corruption."
Two recent examples illustrate this phenomenon.
While the officeholders involved have said "Oops. I made a mistake" (or something to that effect), their "mistakes" have had the curious effect of benefitting embattled candidates/officials from their own party.
- In Wisconsin last month, a hard-fought election for state supreme court turned from a victory for the Democratic challenger to one for the Republican incumbent when an elected Republican county clerk "found" thousands of votes that she had "mistakenly" not included in her election night totals.
Interestingly, the clerk in question used to work for the incumbent that her mistake benefitted.
- In Arizona just this past week, the state's Elections Director, working directly for the elected Republican Secretary of State, announced that she had "mistakenly" given incorrect information to the organizers of a recall effort against the Republican president of the state senate. While the ongoing effort will almost certainly gather enough petition signatures to force a recall election, because of the false info given to the organizers, that election won't be held in November as planned. It will be held next March, well into the next session of the legislature, giving the affected senator many more months to abuse his office.
Interestingly, the elections director in question used to be the legal counsel to the Republican caucus of the state senate, before she moved over to run the state's elections. She was hired for the job by the current SOS, who used to be president of the state senate himself.
Yes, while Arizona is the sixth-largest state (in terms of land area), a very small clique runs it.
The point of all of this is a simple one - when election campaigns ramp up next year, or later this year is some areas, pay some attention to the downballot candidates.
And when you find one that places professionalism above partisanship, consider helping him or her - they need your help even more than the higher-profile candidates, and can have a greater day-to-day impact on the lives of you, your family, and your community.