by Susan Combs
Elections seem to bring out both the best and the worst in people. The airwaves and radio stations are often full of bad things being said about people we didn’t know were really bad…until someone told us. And of course everything you read or hear is always true. Right?
Not really. I was first elected to public office in 1992, and without going into any gory details, I learned things about myself that I had never known. A friend of mine with a weird sense of humor sent me a newspaper clipping from Houston that he had doctored up. An individual with my last name was accused of drug dealing and was on the “Most Wanted” list. My buddy substituted my face and my name and faxed it to me.
I put the article on our breakfast room table and my oldest son (who was a teenager at the time) read it, looked up at me and said “Mom, is this true?” Uh, no. But it illustrates the problem for all of us. He believed what he read, which was of course not true. We are all guilty of not spending enough time thinking about the candidates running for office, and deciding if they share our views, hopes, and aspirations. So here are my suggestions for some questions to ask candidates running for office.
Will the person put Texas and its people first? Will this person work to keep the economy growing so that families can expect better things for their children? Will they take positive steps to educate your children and ensure tomorrow’s workforce is prepared for the jobs of tomorrow?
What are the issues they talk about most frequently, and are those the same issues you care about? Do they seem to be real people, and can you imagine having a cup of coffee with them? If you contact their office, do you get information, feedback, or any response?
Do they want a limited government or a more expansive one? Which works best for you? We generally favor limited government in Texas – and I agree. As chief financial officer of the state, I think Texans paying taxes ought to keep more of their own money in their pockets. And when government spends your money, you ought to know about it. The bigger any entity is, the harder it is to manage. That is a pretty basic fact. Bigger can be badder, not better.
I would add that any elected official must have a clear sense of his or her contract with you – the voter. Candidates run very hard for elected office and in doing so, they lay out the terms of their employment – their contract with the citizens of the state. But when we hire them to fill those posts, we expect that they understand that the contract we have made by electing them is important and that they must live up to their end.
Do they understand their obligations to keep the state strong? If they work for policies that put us in the financial ditch, you are going to pay for it. Think about Chicago and the entire state of Illinois, which has no rainy day fund to guard against unforeseen bumps in the road. Think about the direction California and New York have taken, becoming states where it is unaffordable for many to live, state income taxes dip into the piggy banks of their citizens, and a lack of business friendliness stagnates job growth.
We’ve taken a different tack in Texas and built a state where people can get a job, start a business, buy a home, and create a better future for themselves and their children. And we’ve hit the mark in all sorts of important categories. Take a look:
Bull’s eye! We all want to elect leaders who can hit the mark and deliver on their promises. And we all want to elect leaders who will keep our state strong and our Lone Star Success story moving forward.
One final thought: just as it is important for us to pay attention to these details, so it should be for any elected office holder. Details missed can be costly, while details carefully considered can be very effective – and the difference really matters. So if our elected officials have to read legislation, or regulations, or whatever their job entails, they need to be careful.
Remember, it is your money – and your future – you are shaping when you vote.
So do your homework. It can be fascinating and you have to be in the arena to be effective. Sitting on the sidelines by not voting is not an option.
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
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