My friend Tina Smith, the force of nature, who is President of the Nazareth Chamber of Commerce, asked me to help out with a political debate co-sponsored with Slate Belt Chamber of Commerce. The debate was between County Councilman Ron Angle and his Democratic opponent Wind Gap Council President Scott Parsons. The undercard for the evening was a debate between incumbent County Controller Stephen Barron and Hanover Twp. Supervisor Stephen Salvesen.
I thought I was going to help edit audience questions or write questions in the absence of inquiries from the crowd. I ended up being the official time keeper for the event. I think I have found a new hobby, this kid can keep time, hold up a 10 second warning and what I can do with a red light and buzzer is nothing short of epic.
Being the time keeper forced me to pay attention to what the candidates were saying. I had a great time but I became even more disillusioned by politics.
We had two really knowledgeable incumbents both were clearly at the top of their game versus two very nice men, who cared about public service.
Stephen Barron seems capable and by most news accounts runs a well operated department. But he also appears to be overly partisan, a bit of a bully, into power, very ambitious and kind of too slick & snarky by far.
Stephen Salvesen is a man from a different era. He is tall, gray haired and very patrician. He had impeccable manners a firm handshake and looked me in the eye while speaking to me. Mr. Barron made fleeting eye contact and looked for someone more important (he clearly had no idea who I used to be). Mr. Salvesen is a retired businessman who seems to care about public service but at least on this night was clearly unprepared not only for the debate but for the position he was seeking. I lost count of how many times he said “I don’t know”; he even said “I don’t know what Mr. Barron does”. If Mr. Salvesen does not know what the County Controller does perhaps he should not be running for that office.
Councilman Angle needs no introduction or description to anyone who follows local politics. People either love him or detest him and he is very proud of the fact that he is disliked. In fact he mentioned how proud he was throughout the hour. I have to say that I was expecting Mr. Angle to be a completely unhinged mad man and I was disappointed in his relatively low key performance. Yes he was a tad rude and yes he interrupted his opponent too many times and his side half mumbled insults were annoying but I expected horns and fire and what I got was a man who knows what he is talking about. I don’t like Mr. Angle’s style and I don’t agree with very much of his political philosophy but I have never met someone who knows the ins and outs of county government better.
Scott Parsons is someone I could be comfortable voting for had he been better prepared for the debate and better informed about the issues facing the county right now. I liked his view of the role of government and his desire to bring some civility to politics, something Mr. Angle mocked constantly. The civility thing seemed to be the only issue Mr. Parsons seemed comfortable with and knowledgeable about. Ron Angle is a proven vote getter in that part of the county and it is going to take more than “Can’t we all just get along” to beat him.
So at the end of the night I was left with a feeling of dismay. Do the voters stick with obnoxious, unpleasant and perhaps competent incumbents or do they vote for apparently decent guys who want to bring a little calm and civility to public office. Guys who know what they are doing vs. guys who may need a little (Mr. Parsons) or a lot (Mr. Salvesen) on the job training.
Voting is often like pissing in the wind…You get relief but you also get wet with your own urine.
Do I really want to remain in a process that makes doing the right thing (voting, campaigning) seem so unsatisfying?
Do I really want to keep settling for the lesser of the evils? I have tried to always support the candidate that I thought would try to do the right thing but often after the primary I have had to swallow my pride and integrity and support the Democrat who really was just better than the Republican because he/she was a Democrat – I have rarely been satisfied.
End part two….