Before it became a cliché, it was an apt metaphor, and before that, a literal means of challenging a top-ranked boxer to a bout.
In the early 19th century, contenders would indeed throw their hats into the ring. Today, the phrase is used almost exclusively to describe the process of seeking elected office.
We need some Richmond County residents to make that figurative hat toss and answer the call to public service. Championship belts shouldn’t be won by forfeit, and neither should city council seats.
The two-week candidate filing period for municipal elections began Friday and continues until noon July 21. If you live in the cities of Rockingham or Hamlet or in one of the county’s small towns, you have an opportunity to put your name forward for consideration.
Seats held by Bill Bayless and Steve Morris — mayors of Hamlet and Rockingham, respectively — will be on the ballot this year, along with council seats held by Gene Willard, Denise Sullivan and Anne Edwards (Rockingham) and Jesse McQueen and Eddie Martin (Hamlet).
All seats in Hoffman are up for re-election, as are the mayoral and three council seats in Ellerbe. There are also two seats — currently held by Angeline David and Tyre’ Holloway — in Dobbins Heights, which will hold its election in October.
We’d like to see, at minimum, two candidates for every open seat. That isn’t a knock on any of our incumbents who plan to seek re-election, it’s simply an acknowledgment that voters in a representative democracy deserve choices.
When candidates run unopposed, victory is virtually guaranteed. Human nature tells us that politicians without opponents aren’t likely to spend a lot of time campaigning and won’t be as responsive to constituents’ concerns as they would be if someone else was vying for the same job.
Competition puts voters in the driver’s seat. In order to be successful, candidates have to press the flesh, share their views on local issues and listen to the people who will ultimately decide their fate at the ballot box.
In last year’s general election, 42 percent of N.C. General Assembly hopefuls faced no opposition. We can largely blame that on gerrymandered districts that heavily favor either of the two major parties. In Richmond County’s municipal elections, which are nonpartisan, would-be contenders have no such excuse to stay out of the running.
You can be a Democrat, a Republican, a Libertarian or an unaffiliated voter. You can be a young professional, a middle-aged parent, a senior citizen, a retiree. Men and women of all backgrounds, races and stages of life can answer the call to serve.
The Richmond County Daily Journal does not endorse candidates for public office, but we encourage all comers to get involved in their local governments.
Competitive races are a win for everyone involved. Incumbents who seek to retain their seats want a mandate and a vote of confidence from those they represent. A lack of opposition deprives them of that, and comedian John Oliver describes the resulting hollow victories as “defeating the very concept of nothing.”
Incumbents need challengers.
Voters need choices.
And if you have ideas to help make your community a better place to live, work and play, Richmond County needs you on the ballot.