When I was in a Catholic Seminary, I remember our professors challenging our ability to think deeper about the subject matter. They did this largely by making distinctions using Latin expressions, such as de facto, many of which are used in our English language today.

My most vivid memory of those distinctions was in the use of the words de jure and de facto. De jure referred to the literal meaning while de facto referred to the reality.

In applying this to so-called non-partisan elections, the de facto reality is that there is no such thing as non-partisan elections. Republican and Democratic Clubs exist to elect party members to both partisan and non-partisan offices. As Tip O’Neill put it “all politics are local.” Democrats follow the dictum: “think globally, act locally.”

There are many types of local elections that are referred to as non-partisan. These include city councils, water boards, boards of supervisors and school boards to name a few. For political parties, these local offices serve in a fashion like farm clubs do for baseball. Parties move their candidates up. Thus, Republican Don Knabe went from Cerritos City Council to run for the State Senate and then to County Board of Supervisor. Democrat Rudy Bermudez went from the Norwalk-LaMirada School Board to the Norwalk City Council to the California State Assembly.

Elected officials, once in office, have far reaching influence and power because they appoint individuals to national, state, regional, city and county boards, commissions and special districts. In addition, their staffs are mostly made up of people from their own political party.

As you can see, there is a huge ripple effect created when locally elected Republican office holders have the power to appoint like-minded, doctrinaire right-wingers to serve so many public functions. Tom Delay has made no secret that he wants republicans elected in all so-called non-partisan offices. By way of example, the staff and appointees of former L.A. County Supervisors Gloria Molina and Yvonne Brathwaite Burke were made up of mostly Democrats. I would venture to say that the staff and appointees of Supervisor Don Knabe were more than 90% Republicans, the most notable exception being the appointment of Alex Beanum, the former Mayor of Cerritos.

An elected public official has an awesome responsibility in forming public policy and working for the common good, not just the special interests. People belong to a political party because they see their party’s core beliefs as better bringing about the common good. In that sense, candidates from the other party are political opponents. Political opponents can be friends on a personal basis. However, to cross party lines because of friendship is, in my opinion, to sell out one’s personal beliefs as to which party best serves the common good.

I understand that this is a sensitive issue as we approach November City Council elections. Saying over and over again that this is a non-partisan election does not de facto make it true. Neither is it valid to say that so-and-so of the opposite party supported me and therefore I must support them even though we are adversaries when it comes to political beliefs.

Remember, de facto, there is no such thing as a non-partisan race.


Image Sources

  • de facto: istock