Explaining why suburban voters are seeing fewer contested local gov’t races

Compared to previous years, suburban voters going to the polls together will have fewer choices:

Barely 30 percent of the hundreds of races being decided Tuesday are contested, according to a Daily Herald analysis. That’s down from about 45 percent of races that were contested in local elections eight years ago…

Experts believe there are many reasons fewer people are running for local offices, from the cost of campaigns to the incivility of social media. The effect is voters more frequently must settle for someone who is merely willing to serve rather than choosing the best candidates from among a field of contenders…

The exodus from local candidacy in part is a result of growing personal and professional demands for many people, making time to attend board meetings scarce, experts said.

The downside of public service also dissuades some potential candidates, they added.

Given all that we have heard in recent years about dissatisfaction among the electorate, it is interesting that this doesn’t appear to translate into wanting to get into politics to change things. Shouldn’t the Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street or Black Lives Matter or Trump supports have flooded local elections with an interest in changing government and society?

When you talk to local officials, they often tell of getting into politics to address practical local issues – these are not often ideologues with grand ambitions. (Thus, it is unusual when a local politician gets involved with national politics such as the recent story in the New York Times of the Bolingbrook mayor and Donald Trump.) Is it simply easier to be angry with government and the disavow any need to participate? (And don’t forget that voting in local elections is often quite low.)

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