With the Olympics wrapped up, and the Republican and Democratic national conventions behind us, prepare for the most aggressive political campaigns in history to begin saturating our every moment. Television, newspapers, the U.S. mail, the internet and even your cell phone will be deluged with political campaign messages. Why? First, there are lots of races of high importance to the future of our country, state and educational systems. Second, candidates’ getting their names out is the top priority in becoming elected. Third, the current rules for campaign finance assures an almost bottomless pit of money available on both sides of the aisle.
Throughout the country, all eyes will be on the presidential race. Never before have we had two candidates who are viewed by voters so negatively. Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, compared with previous elections, have relatively little support within their own parties. Will those non-supporters even show up to vote? What will independents do? Will those who backed Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders in the primaries now vote for Hillary, or will they switch to maverick Donald, or perhaps abstain? Will those staunch Republicans who openly oppose Donald Trump actually vote for a Democrat? If ever there was an opening for a third-party candidate, this seemed to be the year, yet no credible third-party candidate has emerged. The Libertarian party has a slate, but apparently it lacks funding and, thus far, does not have enough support to be invited to presidential debates.
Also at the national level, we have an important election in Indiana for the U.S. Senate, pitting current U.S. Rep. Todd Young against former Indiana Gov. and U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh. Both have access to unprecedented cash to fund their efforts. Both have bona fide credentials qualifying them for this office. Will Republican-leaning Indiana favor Todd Young, or will Indiana’s historic affection for Evan Bayh win the race for him?
Switching to the state races, the race for governor is underway between the relatively unknown Eric Holcomb on the Republican ticket and former Speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives and previous candidate for governor, Democrat John Gregg. At this writing the race appears to be a toss-up, and the debates between them could be the determining factor.
The last race I want to cover is for the office of the superintendent of public instruction. Incumbent Glenda Ritz has earned the Democratic nomination against challenger ‒ and newcomer to politics ‒ Jennifer McCormick, who was selected by Republicans. Ritz has been sparring with Gov. Mike Pence for the past four years over the direction and control of education in Indiana. This has made her loved by some and reviled by others. Either way, she has become a lightning rod within state government, and this election will be more of a referendum on Glenda Ritz ‒ much like four years ago, when she defeated incumbent Tony Bennett. While I believe that this should not be an elected office, but instead should be appointed by the governor, it nevertheless will be a race worth watching. Certainly the state representatives and senators are watching carefully, since education is the largest expense in the state budget.
For the next 75 days, we will all be subject to political campaign overload. Freedom isn’t free, and part of the price today is enduring the process. Yet I wouldn’t trade our system for any other on earth. I hope that Americans exercise their right to vote, and do so thoughtfully.
– S. Joe DeHaven