PHOTO FROM CREATIVE COMMONS

Commentary

Faithful, Watchful Citizens: Elections matter – Do you know your candidates?

Primary elections and scrutinizing candidates

It’s that season, once again, when candidates across the state are vying for our support to serve in public office. Whether somebody is running for the proverbial city dog catcher or President of the United States or anything else in between, elections matter. The people who serve us in public office make decisions that impact us in any number of ways, some smaller and others more substantial. They have influence on those around them, including other public officials in different elected bodies, as well as community and business leaders. Not to mention, any number of candidates who successfully run for lower public offices end up running for higher public offices.

Who serves us matters. And we shouldn’t take any of this for granted. To repeat: elections matter.

But the problem is that we too often take elections for granted. Many of us are distressed, distraught, fatigued and frustrated at the very thought of a political election. Elections can sound like the same old empty promises with no perceived delivery of those promises, cycle after cycle. Lots of shaking hands, kissing babies, all for earthly power and self-gain. Perhaps this might be true from time to time. But the overarching fact is that it is not the true state of things.

In my experience, nearly everybody running for public office does so with the best of intentions. They are serious about serving their community. And they think they are best suited for the job, even if it took some others to convince them of this fact. They also believe they hold the right values that are needed to advance their elected district’s welfare. In short, even if you don’t agree with them about their principles and approaches to policy matters, they are doing it for “the right reasons.”

That said, as voters and particularly as Catholics, we have a solemn responsibility to be vigilant about those running for public office. We must discern their values and vote our well-informed consciences accordingly.

While not every one of us can analyze each race with a fine tooth comb, we should set aside some time to review trusted resources. For me, I typically review a candidate’s website, check whether local newspapers have done interviews with the candidates, and look to organizations I align with and those I don’t (good to know what the opposition thinks!) to see if they’ve compiled voter guides that the candidates have answered.

And, better than all those options, speak with the candidate face to face. Candidates, especially those running for more local races, are typically accessible and very willing to talk with voters. You may find them at a local community gathering, candidate forum, or some other such event. And nothing should stop you from looking up their phone number or e-mail and contacting them directly.

For those who want the trusted help of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, we invite you to view the Nebraska Catholic Voter Guide, which will go live on April 11, at www.NebraskaCatholicVoter.com. There you can learn about state and federal legislative candidates, gubernatorial candidates, and State Board of Education candidates. We asked the candidates about a variety of issues we think Nebraskans find important. We also invited the candidates to share some background information about themselves and to provide their “message to Catholic voters.” Take a few minutes to easily look up your candidates and share the resource with family, friends, and parishioners.

Tom Venzor is executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference. Email him at tvenzor@necatholic.org.