FLETCHER: Heading out on the campaign trail

Opinion column

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

You’ve got to stand for something or you’re gonna fall for anything.

John Mellencamp

Albany’s Municipal Election is set for Nov. 5, and The Albany Herald is currently hitting the campaign trail to talk with the seven candidates who qualified for contested Albany City Commission seats in wards II, III and V. It is the candidates’ job to get their message to the voters in their wards, but The Herald is committed to providing a detailed look at each candidates’ platform and concerns as well as conducting in-depth one-on-one interviews with each.

Learn more about each hopeful as The Herald takes its readers inside the campaign trail:

— It’s disheartening to hear people say “I’m not voting in the (Municipal Election) because we’re not electing a president, senator, governor, mayor or any other official that really matters.” The opposite is actually true. Sure, laws passed by our federal and state governments impact us directly in the long run, but every decision made by our local governmental bodies impacts our everyday lives immediately. (It should be pointed out that in Albany, while the mayor is the titular head of the city government, the person serving in that office carries only slightly more weight than the commissioners elected in the six wards. The mayor’s vote is merely one of seven — no more, no less — cast by the commission.)

Incumbent Ward III Commissioner Christopher Pike said it best in a recent interview: “Local government is so much more significant to the everyday lives of our citizens than state and federal government. I talk to local school groups and tell them ‘If you went to the bathroom this morning, local government provided the sewer network. If you brushed your teeth, local government made sure you had water. If you rode to school in a car or bus, the roads were cared for by your local government. Everything — from picking up trash to police to 911 calls to firetrucks responding in emergencies — is provided by your local government.”

— Pike and Ward II Commissioner Ivey Hines are the incumbents in their respective wards, while Bob Langstaff — who is running unopposed — will return to his seat in Ward V. Both Pike and Hines have declared that their experience in office will be vital over the next four years, but displeasure over the goings-on of government at the federal and state levels has many political followers wondering if incumbency is a particular advantage in 2013.

Asked that question, Ward III challenger B.J. Fletcher said: “I don’t think this is a good time to be an incumbent anywhere in the world. Life is a highway, and right now we appear to be on a path of destruction. It’s time to take a turn.”

— It’s interesting to see special-interest groups and even individuals with specific agendas lining up to try and make their mark on the local election. Unfortunately, some of these groups/individuals subvert the election process by insinuating themselves (or chosen acolytes) into proceedings designed to introduce voters to all candidates. Candidates end up in damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t scenarios in which they’re castigated if they don’t attend but ambushed if they do. That’s why voters need to learn as much as they can before marking their ballots.

— Procrastinators be forewarned: Your time is at hand. There are plenty of people who have a penchant for putting things — even important things — off until the last minute. For such folks who are planning to vote in the Nov. 5 election, tomorrow is your final shot. Monday is the final day for new voters to qualify to vote in the municipal election, and it is also the deadline to register address changes with the Elections office.

— Those who do register to vote by Monday will have a week to get all the information they can about their ward races before early voting kicks off Oct. 14. The early voting period will continue weekdays through Nov. 1. Polls on election day will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Since both the Ward II and Ward III races include three candidates, the very real possibility exists that there could be one or even two runoff elections. If no candidate in either race manages to get 50 percent plus 1 vote of all the votes cast, a runoff has been scheduled for Dec. 3.