Who's your choice for Mayor in 2015?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Oh My, Aren't Those Partisan Primaries Just AWFUL? They're So, So PARTISAN!

I first noticed it yesterday on Zack McMillan's outstanding blog, Eye on City Hall.  (Note, Zack, I am GLAD you are back there, it's actually readable again for something other than Wendi or Sports for the first time in a LONG time.)  Zack was suggesting that since partisan primaries in May for County races were low turnout, perhaps they should be eliminated.


Old partisan hack that I am, I responded:
Zack, it rings hollow from a partisan perspective that the GOP, who began the partisan county primaries on their own in 1994 (the SCDP did not start until 1998) now wants to get rid of them.
Now, a more cynical person might think that this had something to do with the fact that much of the GOP base has exited Shelby for Tipton, Fayette and DeSoto Counties, and that it is highly unlikely that they will win more than two offices this August.
However, the REAL problem here is the statewide requirement that the County general elections be held at the same time as the State and Federal primary elections in August. This leads to confusion among even savvy voters.
The REAL answer would be a change at the state level that A) consolidates ALL primaries to August and B) all General Elections for November. This would reduce confusion and allow parties to create serious tickets and build themselves up at the County level.
While they are at it, they could arrange for all the Court Clerkships to be appointed by the judges of the particular jurisdiction and not elected, as there is no reason for them to be elected. Court clerks serve judges and lawyers, and that's who should choose them.
Then, the CA followed it up with an editorial today calling for the abolition of primaries. (Heh, I'm linking to the CA; maybe some day they will link to me!) What they DON'T mention is that the mixture in August of primary and general elections creates utter confusion for even the most savvy voters.

I believe that this may have to be done at a state level with the Constitution, as these are constitutional offices.  With that, you would have all primaries in August and all general elections in November, and it would have the added value of aiding in party-building at the local level.

However, I'm not done yet.

I believe that since we're dabbling with Constitutional change, let's kick it up a notch and make some of our statewide officials ELECTED rather than appointed.  The offices of Secretary of State, Attorney General, State Treasurer, and State Comptroller all should be elected statewide rather than be appointed by the majority party of the TGA.

Yes, GOP Cynics, I thought this would a great idea when WE were in charge, too.


While I'm sure any Democratic leadership in Nashville will need a change of underwear having just read that, the fact remains, the ONLY elected statewide position for a State office is that of Governor.  How is a party supposed to build a bench?

Until a decade ago, we at least had the Public Service Commission.  Then, my Congressman made one of his rare errors while serving as my State Senator by getting a bill passed to change the PSC from elected positions to appointed positions, now to be called the Tennessee Regulatory Authority.  (This is why you don't invite our Congressman to the same soirees as Senator Kyle, but, as Alton Brown would say, that's another show!)

As no Republican had ever been elected to the PSC (wonder why?  :-)) I thought it was wrong-headed, and still do.

You make these changes, as complicated as they may be, and you will increase turnouts in August and in November.  It will hopefully draw REAL distinctions between the parties, so we can focus on such things, as well, ISSUES, and not how cute their families are.  What the hell that has to do with policy-making and governing is beyond me; we're elected leaders and administrators, not Prom King and Queen, dammit.

Ok, that's my thought, what's yours?

 UPDATE: Wintermute makes a solid point here, and I want to share it:

Well, the Court Clerks DO interface with much of the public. They have to pay fines and costs. There are more than a few pro se suits filed in General Sessions Civil. Danny Kail wants to use the Probate Court Clerk's office to educate the public about end-of-life issues.

The organized bar and professional associations probably SHOULD take a more active role leading up to a public vote.

I'd just like the Court Clerks to be accountable to me and my brethren as well as to the public, not just to a majority of 10 Criminal Court Judges, 15 General Sessions Court Judges, 9 Circuit Court Judges, and 3 City Court Judges respectively.

4 comments:

Wintermute said...

"Court clerks serve judges and lawyers, and that's who should choose them."

Well, the Chancellors choose "their" "Clerk and Master" already.

How are the lawyers, whose work flow is so affected by the performance of the Clerks' offices, going to get to vote on who's to be Clerk?

I'm not saying the interests of the Judges of a Court are significantly different than that of the lawyers practicing before that Court, but putting any issues directly before the people seems preferable to the sort of system that has the Tennessee Supreme Court picking our state "Attorney General and Reporter."

Steve Steffens said...

On a general basis, I agree with that point.

The average SC resident/taxpayer has contact with the offices of the Assessor and Trustee regarding taxes, and contact with the Register's office regarding real estate transfers. Ditto for County Clerk WRT car tags and/or marriage or business licenses.

The Mayor and Sheriff's offices go without saying. However, how can the average voter judge the performance (or potential performance) of a Court Clerk or challenger? Unless they are in the legal profession, hey have no way to do so.

Wintermute said...

Well, the Court Clerks DO interface with much of the public. They have to pay fines and costs. There are more than a few pro se suits filed in General Sessions Civil. Danny Kail wants to use the Probate Court Clerk's office to educate the public about end-of-life issues.

The organized bar and professional associations probably SHOULD take a more active role leading up to a public vote.

I'd just like the Court Clerks to be accountable to me and my brethren as well as to the public, not just to a majority of 10 Criminal Court Judges, 15 General Sessions Court Judges, 9 Circuit Court Judges, and 3 City Court Judges respectively.

Steve Steffens said...

That, I didn't realize, and I may have to reconsider this position.