Yes, dear friends, there is another election on May 6, and you need to vote! The first Saturday in May is a uniform election date set aside by the state legislature for city councils, school boards, and other entities to hold elections. In this and my next two messages I’ll talk about how this election is different, and why your votes for city council and school board are important.
So, what’s so different about the May 6 election? Primarily, it’s a non-partisan election. Now, I know that a lot of you think you know what it means, but you may still be confused about what role the political parties play in the process and what it means to have Democrats running. And some may only have a vague notion that it’s an election where the people who are running don’t have a party affiliation next to their name on the ballot. Let’s look at how partisan elections work and then how the non-partisan elections are different.
For the even year elections, candidates file with the Democratic Party (or the Republican Party) for a place on the primary ballot. If they win, or if they’re the only one who files, then they become the party’s nominee and run as a Democrat in November. Because they are our nominees we promote them (and don’t need their consent), work for them, and can spend money on them without any additional campaign finance reporting being required.
In contrast, for non-partisan elections in odd years candidates file directly with the entity holding the election – city, school district, or Collin College board of trustees. They run as themselves and party affiliation does not appear on the ballot. While they may fashion themselves as Democrats or even be a Precinct Chair or other party office, they are not technically running as Democrats. Two or more Democrats can file for the same office, and that frequently happens in Democratic leaning jurisdictions. The party has no formal role in the process – we’re not even notified.
Because in non-partisan elections the candidates are not in any way associated with the party, their publicity and how they run campaigns is entirely up to them. They may see their party affiliation as a strength or weakness, depending on the circumstances. And there is often a distaste among candidates and voters for injecting partisan politics into non-partisan elections. Some candidates decide to openly identify as Democrats, and some don’t. The important thing is that they make that choice themselves and it’s not the party’s to make, regardless of how much we might want to help them.
So, why is the Democratic Party at both the county and state level even interested in non-partisan races? First, there’s a value in and of itself in having progressive and liberal office holders on city councils and school boards. And second, holding non-partisan office is excellent preparation for running for a partisan office, and we need to build a deeper bench.
We can help the Democrats who run for these offices in a variety of ways – most of them under the radar. Both the CCDP and Texas Democratic Party offer training and general assistance with campaign strategy. The TDP offers discounted access to our voter database – the Voter Activation Network otherwise known as VAN. The CCDP can publicize candidate events and calls for volunteers on request, offer the use of our office, and provide other logistical support. In some circumstances we can also pass out candidate literature on our block walks. If a candidate requests it and our County Executive Committee concurs, we will formally endorse candidates – though in Collin County this is at present a pretty rare occurrence.
So, mark Saturday, May 6 as Election Day and make plans to vote. In my next messages I’ll talk about why it’s important to vote for City Council and your local school boards. Early voting starts Monday, April 24 and ends Tuesday, May 2. Check back at here at collindemocrats.org as the dates approach. We’ll have links to early voting and Election Day voting locations and hours.