I was chatting the other day with someone about the new mayor of Princeton, a young woman named Brianna Chacon. My friend asked: Is that a non-partisan office?
I answered “yes, thank goodness.” My friend agreed before launching into a brief tirade about the partisan nature of all the county offices we elect in Texas.
And that brings us to another rant. I have long believed that the partisan nature of constitutional offices in Texas, and that includes those at the county level – given that counties do not have what we could call “home rule charters” – are a ridiculous extension of the partisan nature of legislative and most statewide offices.
I have asked judicial candidates and judges themselves the same question over many years covering them in Texas: Can you explain to me the difference between Democratic and Republican justice? So help me, none of them has offered a reasonable explanation. Most of them just shrug and say, in effect, “That’s what we do in Texas; we run as Democrats or Republicans.”
Well, let’s take this issue down a notch or two. Someone should explain to me as well how you differentiate between Democratic and Republican sheriffs, district attorneys, county clerks, district clerks, tax assessor-collectors, treasurers, justices of the peace, constables. Name the office and then try as best you can to explain why it matters at all whether that individual is a Democrat or a Republican.
My friend happens to believe as I do, that the partisan labels we attach to these offices is a non-starter.
I am not naïve enough to believe that any of this will change in the lifetimes of anyone reading this blog post. That won’t prevent me from declaring my intense dislike of the manner we elect folks up and down the ballot in Texas.
I will maintain forever and ever – or until hell freezes over and Texas changes its electoral system – that too many public offices shouldn’t be governed by individuals elected on partisan ballots. They all take oaths to follow the law and to defend the U.S. and Texas constitutions. Nowhere do they swear to be loyal to the party under which they ran for the office they won.
John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise, is also a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is now retired, but still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook, or his blog, www.highplainsblogger.com. Kanelis' blog for KETR, "Piece of Mind," presents his views, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of KETR, its staff, or its members. Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.