Editorial: The pols who run alone

Another local election season has passed, which gives us here at The Spotlight a great opportunity to remind our newly elected representatives, be they newcomers or incumbents, to lay down the sword of campaigning and get back to the business of the people.

We’ll certainly take that opportunity, but sadly it’s one that has fewer targets this 2011 election than we’d prefer.

Voters across the Capital District stepped into the voting booth (well, opened their official Board of Elections ballot privacy folder) on Tuesday, Nov. 8, to cast votes in decisive races. This year’s results fully demonstrate the impact one voter can have, with nail-biters in races out of Colonie, Saratoga Springs, Ballston and Malta, to name a few. Some candidates came out ahead by only a few dozen votes.

It was indeed an interesting night, but not in all places. In numerous races, voters were all too often given no options at all.

Residents of Albany County probably got the shortest end of the proverbial stick. Dan McCoy waltzed into the county executive’s office entirely unopposed, as did Sheriff Craig Apple, County Comptroller Mike Conners, County Court Judge Stephen Herrick and Family Court Judge Gerard Maney, not to mention a slew of the county’s 39 legislators.

Things were a bit more encouraging in Schenectady and Saratoga counties, but in those areas some key leadership seats — including supervisor positions — went unopposed, and the race for Halfmoon supervisor was the first to be fought in a decade.

This is in no way a criticism of the candidates themselves. In some cases, the job they’re running for is simply not particularly glorious, they’re doing a fine job already and most people wouldn’t want to go to the trouble of campaigning for it. It’s understandable.

But in many other instances, a lack of choice hints at broken political systems in many of our local governments, where one party exercises such dominance that other factions are unable or unwilling to bring even a token candidate forward. That’s exemplified nowhere better than in the Town of Bethlehem, where a Democrat-Republican cross endorsement for Kyle Kotary arguably raised the ire of many a voter, paving the way for John Clarkson to best him first in a primary, then in the general election.

Politicos should take notice of this story. Allegations of dirty backroom deals aside, voters like having a choice, even if it’s between the lesser of two evils or if it’s likely one candidate will easily win. They don’t like feeling the process is over before it’s begun, as was the case in Bethlehem.

Nor should they. So let those taking office Jan. 1 govern for all, and those out of power regroup for 2013. We’d be happy to cover your races if only you’d create them.

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