Far too much of a good thing

 


Maybe Alaskans were tired of hearing the all-too-familiar refrains: Good candidates don’t run for public office anymore; it’s too expensive; ill-mannered social media posts go after their families and disrupt their lives; voters are too easily swayed by misleading attack ads; and no one wants to hear the truth about solving the country’s problems. So why bother running for office.

Clearly, 51 candidates to fill the seat of the late Don Young, Alaska’s congressman for the past half-century, decided to ignore all the reasons not to run.

Or maybe some of them are running to embrace the wrong reasons, looking forward to the attention and the chance to say anything that will get them an extra “Like” on Facebook or more Twitter followers. Former Gov. Sarah Palin likely fits in that category, searching for the national attention she once enjoyed.

Whatever the reasons, 51 candidates — well, 48, as three had dropped out as of Monday — is a reversal of anemic candidate turnouts in past elections. That’s a good thing. Democracy is better when the public has choices, when candidates can debate the issues and voters can make informed decisions.

But such an overwhelming number of candidates is not a good thing. It’s a political feeding frenzy that makes Alaska look as silly as, well, our former governor.

There is no way in the next 10 weeks that Alaska voters will be able to learn much about 50 different people, such as their views on what the federal government can and should do about inflation, how much more aid should the U.S. send to Ukraine, and whether the federal government should do more to help families with child care expenses.

Yet voters need to make decisions so that Alaska is well represented in Congress. The primary will narrow the field of 50 to a final four, but with so many running, and so few votes needed to rise to the top four in the primary, even Las Vegas bookmakers may look at the odds and refuse to take any bets.

So how does a voter choose?

Forget the campaign slogans about responsible resource development, sending Alaska oil and gas to the rescue or casting off the shackles of federal regulations. It’s hard to find much difference between candidates on those issues. Any politician with any hope of winning in Alaska is going to support resource development. To campaign otherwise would be like going to a baseball game and wearing a jersey for the visiting team — no one will want to sit next to you.

Forget the 50 and focus on the few that have experience in public office and knowledge of public policy, who can impress you with what they know, not what they promise.

Ignore the ones whose outlandish claims sound like a scam text on your phone.

Somewhere in those 50 is the next member of the U.S. House from the 49th state. Let’s hope voters can find that needle in the haystack.

-- Wrangell Sentinel

 

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