Jason Shelton

JASON SHELTON

This year’s elections are to decide who will serve as our state and county officials and these elections matter to each and every one of us. We have serious issues on every level of government. The people elected will have to deal with every issue of our society, not just a single issue regardless of how passionate we may be about that single issue. The candidate elected should be the candidate who will do the best job when in office, because after all of the politicking is over and election day is behind us, there is a real job to be done by each and every elected official and that person’s job performance impacts each and every one of us.

From county supervisor to governor, we have incredible candidates from both parties who can do a great job if elected. The candidates are all working hard to win your vote and will employ a variety of tactics to get their message to you. In today’s world, candidates cannot simply rely on one method of reaching voters. They must engage in both traditional and modern campaigning, from old fashioned door to door and handshaking, to modern social media and even the annoying text messages and calls that you receive. This is a modern necessity of seeking political office.

Part of the process is also legitimate debate and differences over fundamental policy issues. The candidates should be addressing the issues that are relevant to the citizens of Mississippi and explaining their position and their plan for improving public education, health care, our economy, and quality of life right here at home. In my opinion, the hot button and divisive issues that get the most attention are things that only take a fraction of an elected official’s time in office. The vast majority of the elected official’s time is spent doing the work for which he or she was elected. The candidates must engage in legitimate political debate on issues that matter to every Mississippian. Candidates must say what they are for, not just what they are against.

What the candidates do not have to do, however, is engage in dirty politics and fear-mongering. These tactics were used against me by statewide organizations in my first race for mayor and my message was simple: The only way to defeat dirty politics is to not allow it to work. Fortunately for me, dirty politics do not have a history of working in Tupelo and the tactics were rejected. By all of us rejecting dirty politics, together we can make it stop being effective on a state and even national level.

One of the most common dirty tactics on the state and national level is fear-mongering – make the voters afraid of your opponent or to simply dislike your opponent. The theory is that is does not matter why the voter is voting for you, as long as they are voting against your opponent. This lesser of two evils mentality is employed by candidates who do not have the ability to stand on their own merits. If a candidate is demonizing his or her opponent, it means that the candidate is scared of losing and cannot stand on his or her own record.

Do not let the tired old politics of fear-mongering influence your vote. If someone is simply running against the other candidate or political party, what are they really for? Why do they want the job? If a candidate, particularly someone who is already an elected official, cannot run on his or her own experience and record, rather than demonizing his or her opponent or their political party, is that candidate worth electing? I would suggest not.

It is a cheap and disingenuous political ploy to simply create a boogeyman and run against it. Please do not fall for such dirty tricks when so much is at stake. At the end of the day, vote for the best candidate who will do the best job while in office.

When I was a kid and just learning about politics, I once asked my step-grandfather, who was a constable, if he thought the voters would elect anyone new in that year’s statewide election. He responded quickly that “they always do, the problem is that it will be a different bunch of the same folks.”

We have serious statewide challenges in our state. Do we really need to elect a different bunch of the same folks that are going to keep doing the same things that are not working? How can we improve by continuing methods that have been proven ineffective?

JASON SHELTON is the mayor of Tupelo.

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