Thursday, June 21, 2018
Opinion

Daniel Ruth: Political candidates? Pass the scotch!

In the ivory tower racket this time of year is the journalistic equivalent of a scribblers death march. This is when, as a member of the Tampa Bay Times editorial board, I find myself sitting through seemingly endless hours of interviews with candidates seeking the paper's recommendation.

And that is why God created scotch. Thank you, Lord!

To be fair, the politicians strolling through the door are, for the most part, earnest, well-meaning people who feel a call to public service.

Then there are the others. Oh, bartender? Make that a double.

This was essentially my second tour of duty sitting in on the candidate interviews since joining the editorial board last year. My colleagues, bless their hearts, their patience and their sanity, have far greater experience with the vetting process.

It seems that every election cycle draws a number of candidates who, about 10 minutes into the interview, you simply want to reach across the table, grab them by the lapels, slap them silly and scream: "Why are you even here since Daffy Duck would have a better chance getting elected?"

But we have the inner discipline of a thousand Spartans on the editorial board.

One of the odder moments occurred when a first-time pol running for a Florida House seat was asked what issues he thought were important to the constituents in his district. If that seems like a simple boilerplate question, it was. The answer wasn't.

He didn't care what issues were important, the candidate replied. Not a whit. What we didn't understand, he explained, was that he would be going to Tallahassee to pursue broader issues of grave import to the state of Florida as a whole. It was also unimportant to him that he had never been to Tallahassee; nor was he remotely concerned with how the legislative process works.

Uh, what this chap doesn't understand is that he isn't going to be headed to Tallahassee any time soon.

A word of caution to candidates. It is never a good idea to fudge your resume. One School Board candidate, who was all of 20, claimed he had already blown through his studies with a degree from Florida State University and was well on his way to getting his master's degree.

Red lights and oooooga-ooooooga-ooooooga horns went off. None of it was true. Better luck next time.

As you might suspect, we saw several tea party candidates and one or two from the Black Helicopter/We're All Doomed! Party. Fun folks.

There was the Agenda 21 candidate who within minutes of sitting down repeatedly attempted to reference a U.N. urban legend plot to take over the world. We reminded him gently, but firmly, a SPECTRE-esque conspiracy at global domination didn't really figure in much with the running of the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser's Office unless, of course, Ernst Stavro Blofeld was thinking of moving to Fort Lonesome.

I'm often struck by candidates running against an incumbent who cannot articulate just what it is about the other guy that is so horrible to warrant his removal from office beyond the notion that they simply want the job. Jealousy does not a campaign make.

For future candidates, a bit of advice. Don't lie about your background. Have some idea what the job is you are running for. Spare us, please, all the tinfoil hat conspiracies. And if you bring the ice, I'll provide the Dewar's.

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