1. Opinion

With few or no challengers, now's the time to launch your political career, if you dare

Published Feb. 4, 2012

No doubt from time to time, you have watched our local government in action and thought to yourself: "What a bunch of doofuses! Why if I was an elected (fill in the blank) I could do a much better job than those chuckleheads."

Well Bunky, now is your big chance to launch a political career. Got gumption?

It seems with a mere nine months before Hillsboroughites head to the polls, most of the community's incumbent officials — from the Florida Legislature, to the county commission and a host of constitutional offices — could well get a free ride to re-election.

Or put another way, Russia's Vladimir Putin isn't this lucky.

There are plenty of reasons for the dearth of political opponents to take on a current officeholder.

Redistricting for the Florida Legislature hasn't been set in stone yet. Fundraising, especially for a newbie pol, is always problematic, more so in a presidential year when checkbook fatigue sets in.

But there could also be other factors at work that caution against someone going out to buy their "Hail to the Chief" starter kit.

First, for all their many shortcomings, most of the incumbent officeholders in our fair hamlet know all too well that running for office can be a huge pain in the tuches.

A campaign — if done properly — involves long hours begging for votes and money. Serious candidates have to beat the pavement, knocking on doors, showing up at sparsely attended community forums, or standing on street corners waving at passing motorists who return the gesture with that international single-digit response not to be confused with "We're No. 1."

At the same time, the chances are excellent that your opponent's henchmen will spread nasty rumors accusing you of being a sleazy, rotten, loathsome, unpatriotic louse simply because 25 years ago you missed a car payment.

And, oh yeah, then you lose.

But suppose not? Suppose you win? Well, we're having way big fun now.

Perhaps you entered the political arena because you want to make society a better place. You want to improve the lives of others. And yes, in your most private moments, you allow yourself to indulge in the fantasy of maybe one day picking out the curtains for the Oval Office. You're altruistic. You're an idealist. You're a humanitarian.

You're toast.

Let's say you get elected to the Hillsborough County Commission, or even to the Florida House. Before you are sworn in you have visions of undertaking the great issues of the day.

You see yourself delivering impassioned speeches about justice and freedom and (let us bow our heads) liberty for all.

Instead, if you are on the county commission you find yourself spending endless hours in numbingly arcane discussions about sewage, zoning, land use and stormwater drainage.

But the excitement doesn't end there. You also have to endure the public comment session at every meeting where citizens get a couple minutes to get up and accuse you of being a complete chuckleheaded doofus.

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Or as a freshman member of the Florida Legislature, that is if you can afford to take at least two months off from your job to serve, you soon learn your role is to shut up and don't forget to collect the lobbyist's check. Public service. It's a pip.

Still want to throw your hat into the ring?


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