Local Elected Officials and their Politics

by Jim Smith

My opponents and their surrogates have deployed a to-be-expected political-attack strategy. It’s time to set the record straight. I have a bi-partisan history focused on specific issues; and I’m proud that I become stronger as a non-partisan candidate every day.  While most of what is said is a diversion back to national politics and painting me as someone who I am not, all at the expense of our local issues, the issue of political influence and money is important to me. I have some recommendations and happily set the record straight below.

(1) I do not believe local elected officials should campaign for  candidates for higher office.

Our opponents continually surround themselves with outside politicians, some of whom have done our Town no favors on specific issues.

If elected I would not campaign for or against any candidate for higher office and I call on my opponents to do the same. Local elected officials must represent every one of the 18,000 people living in our Town and harness that voter base to work with all politicians, praising them when they do something good for our Town and criticizing them when they do not. Relationships with politicians should be issue-focused and arms-length.

For the record: As a private citizen I have worked on one campaign in my life: I worked full-time for the Clinton-Gore campaigns, for Al Gore in the Clinton Administration, and on the 1997 Clinton Inaugural Committee. I have never publicly supported a candidate for office since. I focus on issues.

(2) I do not believe local political campaigns should accept money from outside forces.

Our opponents financing cannot be easily traced and we know from prior filings that much of it comes through the Democratic Committee which in turn flows in and out of the committee from many outside political groups and other political campaigns. I always follow the money, but it is hard to do that here.

For the record: Our campaign has received no funding from any political clubs, and that includes no funding from the town Republican Committee. Our campaign has only taken money from INDIVIDUALS within New Castle (except for a few small dollar donations from our friends/family).

(3) I do not believe elected officials should personally donate to outside political campaigns.

Our elected officials represent a diverse group of 18,000 residents and once elected you have a fiduciary obligation to represent everyone. If elected I would not donate to political campaigns outside of our Town. Politicians must rise above the political fray if we are going to drive influence out of our elections.

For the record: As a private citizen I have donated to Democrats and Republicans. Since 2016 I’ve become more and more disappointed with both parties and most politicians. To move past that, I’ve decided give more money to important local causes and turn my efforts to local issues. Asking about historical donations is fine, but everyone deserves the full story.

First, look carefully and you’ll see the campaign that received the biggest share of my limited lifelong giving wasn’t the Trump campaign, it was the Hillary Clinton campaign. So who donates to Trump AND Clinton? People who look to issues. I was a Clinton supporter in 2008 and most people are aware I worked in the Clinton Administration and have been a Democrat for most of my life. By 2016 I was spending a significant amount of time focused on specific U.S. National Security issues, in part as a member of a non-partisan, member-funded think tank. I had exposure to the Obama Administration from the Department of Defense to the Clinton/Kerry State Departments. Simply, my 2016 donations reflected what I was seeing at the time on specific National Security related issues, a perspective that few people had. Nothing more. And to be clear, this in no way is an indication of where I stand on important domestic and social issues. And it couldn’t be further from relevant to our important local issues: our commercial hamlets, our roads and infrastructure, our environment, our property values, and our quality of life in New Castle.

As an aside, I suggest people who make personal donations try to follow this model: Don’t just send a check. When you donate, write two handwritten notes. One to the candidate thanking them for discussing a specific issue; and one to the opposing candidate telling them you just donated to their opponent and why, encouraging them to course correct. It’s about as much influence that a private person donating a few bucks can expect to have on any one issue.

The 2016 election showed us that the political pendulum is swinging wildly.  We can get swept up in that swing or we can do something about it for it comes unhinged.  I am standing up to run for local office to represent a Town that I believe can go high when the sour partisanship that has polarized our country, and threatens even the most basic functions of government, takes us low. We are smarter and better than that in New Castle.