Reflections On The Election Process

Happy Election Season Oklahoma! We just had the primary elections this week and many races were decided while others moved into run offs. I’m always excited for every election season to see who steps up to the plate to make change and help govern.

I’ll be the first to tell you I’m a bit of an idealist. I believe in the basic goodness of people and that one person can change the world. That belief is what keeps me going through some really tough times when dealing with the ugliness in life. I earn a living helping people through some of their toughest times. Consequently, I also build incredible friendships and bonds with these people as they take me through their experiences, and I am able to help them heal and recover.

I had many friends running for office in this election cycle. It was exciting to watch the election results and see how things turned out for them. Several friends won their races outright and will move into elected office or continue in the seats they have held. Others made it to a runoff and live to fight another day. Two lost and are done completely. Overall nontraditional candidates – females, openly LGBTQIA candidates, first time candidates who were very young or very old – did well. The election environment in Oklahoma is changing.

This is my second election cycle as a candidate. While this time is a little easier than the last because I’m more comfortable with the process, I still have a lot of anxiety about the process. When becoming a candidate, you give up a lot of personal anonymity for the chance to do a societal good deed. Everything you do is subject to questioning. I’ve been criticized on everything from how much money I earn and the kinds of cases I handle, to the color of my lipstick and the kind of car I drive. None of these things bear on my ability to do a good job if elected but all seem to hold some kind of weight in the mind of potential voters.

To me, what is important is the humanity of the candidate, the breadth of their life and work experience, their commitment to community improvement, and if they are a person of their word. No candidate has experience doing the job of the office until elected, so that is not a deciding factor for me. Rather, I look to the experiences one has gained to prepare them for the job and their willingness to learn from others. Government is a business and business must be run in an organized, efficient, and cost-effective way to be successful. Has the candidate created or managed a business? Have they created jobs or built something out of nothing? Have the candidates had the kinds of life experiences necessary to form a solid foundation for governing? What is their personality and temperament? Will they be calm and collected moving through crisis or will they be hot headed and brash in their approach to problem solving? These are more important to me than any particular party affiliation or platform because those change, but people fundamentally stay the same.

Another thing that I’ve learned from being involved in the political process at the ground level is that everyday people pretty much hold the same beliefs. We are all generally for prudent governmental spending, educating children, keeping kids safe, providing affordable healthcare, and reducing crime. However, somewhere along the way these ideas get polarized when caught up in the party affiliation and platform process. If we spend time talking to one another about beliefs, methods, and process we learn a lot more about a candidate than relying on their party line.

The nice thing about my race is that it's nonpartisan and the candidates cannot make any promises about all the great bills we are going to pass or the efforts we will make to clean up crime on the streets. Instead, judicial races force the candidates to really show ourselves to the electorate. We must talk to you about who we are, where we came from, and what shaped us into the people we are today. For many people that is really hard because it requires us to become vulnerable and show our soft points. As we move further into the election cycle I encourage each of you to get more involved with those who are running for office. Ask questions about who they are, what they believe is important and why. Do not just focus on their political affiliation. Instead make all the candidates show you who they are so you know exactly who you are voting for. That way, no matter which way the person votes, you know they are voting with the spirit of service to others and the community and not self interest.

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Hi, thanks for stopping by!

Rachel Bussett is an attorney with 19 years of experience. She is motivated and inspired to fight for kids and all Oklahomans. 

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