Pasco County Commissioner Michael Cox isn't on the ballot this year, but his image graces a Democratic Party mailer. That is one of the troubles with having only three Democrats in countywide office and one is affiliated with taking your money (Tax Collector Mike Olson) and the other is an underperformer in a nonpartisan seat (School Board member Cathi Martin.) That leaves Cox, the former chairman of the Pasco Democratic Executive Committee, as the face of the party in a get-out-the-vote direct mail campaign.
Unfortunately, the extra face time bounced Cox from extra fiduciary time as part of the county Canvassing Board, the three-member panel that must determine voter eligibility and certify the election returns. Cox' appearance on the partisan mailer means he could not serve on the nonpartisan board in 2008. Commissioner Ted Schrader is available to replace Cox since he won re-election earlier in the campaign with a Republican primary victory and the decision afterward by a write-in candidate to withdraw from the race.
In part, the mailer stated: "When you vote in the election this fall, please remember that real change begins at home. It is important that we send Barack Obama and Joe Biden to the White House." It urges people to vote in legislative and school races and the back includes a list of local Democrats on the ballot.
Cox said he agreed to appear on what he thought would be a get-out-the-vote mailer at the request of Democratic Party Chairwoman Alison Morano. He said he did not see a copy before it was mailed.
That responsibility falls to Cox. He was remiss in not avoiding a potential conflict before the literature hit mailboxes. State law prohibits partisan activities by Canvassing Board members, which required Cox to step down.
It's a good lesson for all involved. Canvassing Board members need to ensure their impartiality. Cox needs to be more cognizant of what goes out under his name and Morano should look beyond the Pasco Government Center for a party cheerleader.
Of course, the party faithful can do their part to help avoid future conflicts. They can work to have more than three Democrats from which to choose the next time the party wants to put an elected officeholder on its partisan literature.