Hey, this should be easy — no choices to make!

Several months ago, I was thinking my bumper stickers for my state representative Micah Caskey were in sad shape, and I needed some new ones. But then I thought, wait: I don’t think he has opposition (which would mean he probably wouldn’t be buying new ones this year). So I sent him a direct message to check:

Just realized you have no opposition this year (unless I missed something). That’s good, because I hate to see good reps be forced to waste effort and money fighting off gratuitous challenges. But dang — I was hoping to get a new bumper sticker…

But then I thought, if I think my rep’s doing a good job, why not say it publicly? Well, I know the reasons why not (see below), but I did it anyway — adapting that message into a public tweet.

And of course, I caught some criticism for it, as writers of opinion always do when they say something nice about somebody:

But I let that go, because it’s hard to fully explain on Twitter. But I was alluding to something that’s been a pet peeve of mine for many years.

The critic certainly had a strong point on his side — I’m just sorry he didn’t understand me.

His point is that far too often, incumbents have NO opposition. And many of them are not doing what a fair observer would call a great job. Some of them have no business in public office. Some are complete doofuses. Some are worse than that.

But year in and year out, they glide to reelection without anyone contesting it. And that’s a profound shame. That’s what my critic was talking about.

What I was motivated by was this: Far too often, it seems the only people who DO get opposition are the best people in office. Often (although not so much in Micah’s case — he’s just a good rep without this cause), it’s because of the very thing that makes them good public servants: They represent a district that isn’t drawn to be safe for one party or the other, so they work hard to serve all their constituents. The lack of such districts, by the way, is one of the main reasons the quality of representation has declined.

Anyway, that dynamic causes them to get opposition. Sometimes, it’s as simple as someone in the other party seeing an opportunity because the district is fairly drawn. Other times — and I really hate this with a passion — they have zip to offer, but see the district as drawn more for THEIR party than the other, and think nothing of opposing the good rep just because it’s doable.

Worst of all — although this mainly applies to primaries — they draw opposition because they do such a great job of representing everybody, and the partisan extremists hate that, and run to the far right or (in other parts of the country) left of them, in partisans’ never-ending quest to destroy representative democracy.

Sometimes, good reps draw good opposition. And that can be inspiring, as you get to watch something that should happen ALL the time. Although it tends to make me think: You’re running against a good public servant. Why doesn’t someone like you run against the unopposed idiot in the NEXT district?

In any case, though, such an embarrassment of riches rarely occurs. Usually, the people deciding to take a chance against good reps have little or nothing to offer, and it causes me to hold my breath hoping they don’t win anyway.

So that’s what I meant, and couldn’t say in 280 characters in response to my critic. But as I said, he had a point. And that point is illustrated dramatically by the sample ballot I just pulled up for Nov. 3. Yep, we’ve got some drama going on at the top of the ballot, with wonderful challengers going up against horrendous incumbents — Biden against Trump, Harrison against Graham…

But down at the bottom, it’s pretty sad. Of course, I should make two points about this. First, some of these offices should not be elective offices. It’s ridiculous to ask voters to decide who, say, the coroner is — or even more absurdly, whether that functionary should be a Democrat or a Republican. Second, there’s no opposition in the general because the real election in Lexington County was held in June.

In any case, it’s still sad…

no choices




had no general election opposition

22 thoughts on “Hey, this should be easy — no choices to make!

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Oh, I should quickly add: I’m not complaining about that one guy criticizing my tweet.

    I only got that one critical response, while 18 people — Democrats as well as Republicans, which tells you something about the kind of rep Micah has been — “liked” it.

    But I thought the criticism was well-grounded, and deserved a response; I just couldn’t fully answer it on Twitter.

    So I did so today…

  2. Ken

    In this district there are 18 races and only 6 of them have two candidates. One has no candidates.
    Now that’s democracy in action!!

        1. Brad Warthen

          Dang. I hope y’all don’t run out of soil and water as a result.

          The state rep is by design, of course. All the effort that goes into redistricting would be a waste if your rep had actual opposition…

            1. Mark

              New Deal special purpose entity relics focused on helping small, under-capitalized farmers move away from predatory land management “practices” – stop them from washing topsoil down gully erosion into streams, creeks and rivers and such.

              Since they seem to do nothing these days to curb corporate farming pollution and environmental degradation such as chicken farm nitrogen run-off and mega-scale low-efficiency irrigation I presume that they have become highly politicized – as in take office as a stake-holder and do nothing with the position to maintain the industry status quo. As such, an empty commission seat probably doesn’t bother anyone in that playpen.

              1. Barry

                Correct. In South Carolina, a Republican Soil and water commissioner is a rubber stamp for any big business action- the exact opposite of what the position was created to be.

              2. Bryan Caskey

                I have one person running unopposed for Soil and Water Commissioner on my ballot. Mary Burts (nonpartisan). I found her bio since she’s the incumbent. Check it out:

                1. What experience and qualifications do you have related to serving on the Soil and Water Conservation District Commission?

                My experience and qualifications began as a child , as my father was a soil scientist with various local Soil and Water Conservation Districts. I was taught early on the importance of conservation and to respect and value the world around us. I have a Masters Degree form Appalachian State University in Environmental Studies for Middle School Students. I taught for 20 plus years in various Middle Schools as an Environmental Education Teacher and led my students to numerous local, state, county and national competitions. As a teacher I was certified in Project Learning Tree and Project Wild. I have served as an Associate Commissioner for 10 years. Prior to this I had been an active member of 4-H,Farm City, Envirothon and been a judge at numerous state and local science fairs with a focus toward conservation and environmental studies as well as various programs associated to the Conservation District. I have won District Teacher of the Year twice and State Conservation Teacher during this time. I was also selected as Volunteer of the Year for the District in 2017.

                2. What are the top challenges or opportunities facing the Soil and Water Conservation District, and what are your recommendations to meet them?

                The top challenges facing the Soil and Water District is engaging people more in conservation and learning how climate and development affects each of us in preserving our natural resources and preserving our lands and resources for the next generation. With this in mind educating our children and teaching them these importance’s prepares them for the challenges of the future. This at an early age can be done by fun and engaging activities which teach not only the student but the family. As we have dealt with the restrictions of COVID 19, the importance of gardening, being able to walk in nature for our mental health, and enjoy being together as a family doing outdoor activity is even more important now than ever before , so we need to conserve and preserve what is in our world. Conservation means, “taking care of what we have and where we are, and making it better for tomorrow”, is my motto.

                Dude! She’s like the John Quincy Adams of Soil and Water Commissioners. I clearly have the best Soil and Water Commissioner in the State. This would seem like an example of what Brad was talking about in not running against an incumbent doing a good job.

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Yep. Last thing you need is some Soil and Water Andrew Jackson coming along and knocking her out of office, then having a big, drunken party in which all his supporters come over and trash the Soil and Water House…

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    Y’all, to elaborate a bit…

    That part where I said, “Other times — and I really hate this with a passion — they have zip to offer, but see the district as drawn more for THEIR party than the other, and think nothing of opposing the good rep just because it’s doable.”…

    I think that’s what we see happening this year in Mandy Powers Norrell’s district. Although if I’m wrong, and Mandy’s opponent is a terrific candidate with a great passion for serving and good ideas — I hope you’ll correct me. I don’t live there, and my info is limited.

    Basically, Mandy is a Democrat who lives in a district full of Republicans. That has made little difference, because she’s an excellent public servant who fairly and diligently represents her Republican and Democratic constituents.

    In 2018, she had no opposition for her House seat — kind of amazing, when you consider that she spent that year running for lieutenant governor. But she didn’t, and she was re-elected at the same time she was losing the bid for lt. gov.

    And she has gone on serving her constituents with all the energy, enthusiasm and dedication she has always brought to the job.

    But this year, a Republican decided to run against her. And as usual in these cases, the argument that she offers (on her website, anyway) is that she is a Republican. Her case reminds me of, for instance, the situation in 2008, when Jim Manning ran against Mike Montgomery — who I thought was probably the best, hardest-working member of Richland County Council — offering little as an argument in his favor beyond the fact that he was a Democrat, and he thought a Democrat could win that district. Unfortunately, he was right, and the people of Richland County lost the services of Montgomery. I wrote about all this at the time.

    Oh, she has one other criticism of Mandy: Mandy has committed the sin of seeking higher office. So that’s the opponent’s argument: She’s a Republican, and she has no higher ambition.

    The one thing I like about this candidate is that she has the same last name as my fictional hero Leo McGarry. That’s something, right? But not enough to turn out Mandy, who has lived in the community her whole life (as opposed to moving there in 2006), and has engaged in excellent public service to the community her whole adulthood.

    So now, because this other woman sees a partisan opportunity, Mandy is having to run around raising money and scrambling, and doing stuff that takes away from doing more worthwhile things — for her constituents, her family, and if she can ever find the time, herself.

    Anyway, that’s the kind of thing I was thinking of when I said that stuff above…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      By the way, Will Folks recently said this about that race:

      Democrats in Lancaster county, South Carolina made a grievous miscalculation earlier this year when they decided at the last minute to submit the name of their local party chairman – Keith T. Grey – as a candidate for S.C. House District 45 (.pdf), a seat which is currently held by second-term Republican Brandon Newton….

      Republicans countered the Democratic move by submitting the name of their own party chair – Sandy McGarry – to run against state representative Mandy Powers Norrell, who represents neighboring S.C. House District 44 (.pdf).

      Unlike Newton, Norrell occupies a district the GOP could easily win in November – as it went for Trump with 58.4 percent of the vote in 2016. No other Democratic district in the state featured a higher percentage of Trump voters during the last election….

      So if Will’s right, it’s as I say: This has nothing to do with the quality of Mandy’s service as representative. In fact, it has nothing to do with Mandy Powers Norrell at all. Nothing that she has ever done for her district, or for South Carolina, or for anyone or anything else, matters.

      It has to do with a party seeing the chance to pick up a seat, and not caring whether the quality of representation drops as a result.

      Which speaks pretty much to the reason I don’t like parties…

  4. Brad Warthen Post author

    Just to update y’all on the sign situation in my neighborhood…

    The signs for Joe, Jaime, Adair and Nikki Setzler have continued to proliferate. Lately, they’ve been joined by some for school board candidates.

    Last night, I saw a new set of signs for the four mentioned above on a street about a block from me. But then TODAY, on that same street, I saw something unprecedented. Actually, two somethings unprecedented.

    I saw the first Trump sign in my neighborhood. If anything more surprisingly, I saw the first sign for a guy named Chris — hang on, let me go look it up — Smith, who’s running against Nikki Setzler. I didn’t think anybody in my neighborhood would be voting against Nikki — he probably has more signs than anyone.

    Anyway, that’s the latest…

    1. Barry

      Heard a lady today say she had told her husband she was voting, like him, for Trump.

      However, she said she was actually voting for Biden. She wanted to keep the peace at home but morally couldn’t support trump. I suspect there are quite a number of women like that out there.

  5. Mark

    Check again today; either Trump’s sign will be joined with a Confederate battle flag or the yard sign might (should) find its way to the garbage can.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I spoke with Nikki Setzler yesterday and told him I had seen my first sign for his opponent — next to the first one in my neighborhood for Trump. I told him where it was, and he said he thought the lady that lives there is active in the county GOP. I don’t know. I’ve seen people who live there on my walks, but I don’t know them. Nikki, of course, knows everybody.

      Nikki’s having a hard time adjusting this year. He’s a door-to-door man — he likes to go knock on ever door in the district and talk with people. Not doing that doesn’t feel right to him.

      He asked me if I’d put up a sign for him. Since he asked, I told him I would. He said he’d drop one by the house…

  6. Leon

    Back to the Soil and Water Commissioner race which Bryan alluded to earlier, I don’t think I have ever seen a contested race for that job in Richland, Lexington, or Kershaw Counties. It is a very unusual position in that it is an elective office but the winner serves as essentially an unpaid volunteer. That’s probably why no one ever challenges an incumbent.

    I agree with Brad in that I never pull the straight party lever. There might be an incumbent of either party I do not wish to vote for and I don’t vote for him or her. If I vote straight party then that incumbent would get my vote.


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