Opinion: Questions For Candidates

By Richard Eckstrom
S.C. Comptroller
In a few months, South Carolinians will go to the polls to choose the men and women we want to serve us as elected officials.
In the meantime, candidates for local, state and federal offices (from the local county council to Governor to U.S. Congress) are busy shaking hands, kissing babies, and asking for our support.
While participation by as many as possible is important, it’s also important that we take the time to learn about the candidates, such as their qualifications, their positions on the issues, and their reasons for running.
Given the magnitude of the challenges we face – as a state and a nation — decisions about who will lead us are more consequential than ever, and we’d all do well to become as informed as possible before heading into the voting booth.
But it’s important not just to ask where they stand on issues, but also to learn about the style of public service they plan to provide. Here are five questions every candidate ought to answer:
– Will they commit to a totally positive campaign, focused on issues rather than attacks on opponents?
– Will they commit to serving a full term in the office to which they are elected? (Too often, candidates seek one office only to use it as a “stepping stone” to higher office.)
– Will they show respect to citizens who speak out, even when those citizens express dissenting viewpoints? (Too often, politicians try to disparage those with whom they disagree.  I’d offer, however, that citizen participation is an important part of democracy, and those who speak their minds should be not only respected but cherished. We’re all better off when elected leaders listen to the voices of the governed.)
– What would they do to ensure they reflect the views of those they represent? Will they seek input and feedback on the issues? Will they continue to meet with citizens all year long to gain their views, rather than just at election time?
– Will they push for greater government transparency, so that citizens can see how their tax dollars are spent and how decisions that affect them are made?
Ask these questions of all those who seek the responsibility of government service. These questions apply to all candidates for every office. By taking part in this process, you are helping to keep your community, your state, and your nation strong for future generations.
Richard Eckstrom, a CPA, has served as Comptroller since 2003.