"Career Politician" or "Public Servant"?

Dissecting a favorite campaign catchphrase.

Since the mid-1990's, the phrase "career politican" has become a favorite of office-seekers, and even office-holders, who want to identify their opponents as being in office too long, and themselves as fresh faces in politics.

Sometimes that's true...but not always.

Bill Maloney, the Republican candidate for governor in the October special primary in West Virginia, is using it to describe his Democratic opponent, acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin.  While he only has occupied the governor's office since late last year, Tomblin, indeed has been in public office for a long time.

The question, however, isn't how long Tomblin has been in office, but what he has accomplished during that time.  The voters of his Senate district in West Virginia must have thought he's done something, or they wouldn't have reelected him time and time again.

But the phrase came up recently in a campaign that really hasn't even begun.

No sooner did Mike Oliverio, who lost narrowly in 2010 to David McKinley in a race for the first congressional district in West Virginia (which includes Wood and Pleasants Counties), announce he was running for the office again, McKinley's office put out a news release calling Oliverio-you guessed it-a "career politician".

Before running for Congress last year, Oliverio had been, for several years, a member of the West Virginia Legislature.  But so had McKinley, who also had being the state Republican party chairman on his resume.

I should point out that I got to know both McKinley and Oliverio during last year's campaign. I have interviewed McKinley since he has been in Congress, and it appears he's more interested in-during non-election years-visiting and talking to people in this area than his predecessor, long-time congressman (I'll avoid using that other phrase) Alan Mollohan. I believe Oliverio, if he was elected to Congress, would do the same.

I'm sure there are people who have been in political office who have lost their effectiveness, take being in that office for granted, or simply become so used to being in that office that their entire focus is making sure they get re-elected. The voters, I believe, can decide for themselves whether that's the case, or whether that officeholder still cares about their concerns or needs.

But considering the backgrounds of McKinley and Oliverio, the McKinley statement is, as the old saying goes, "the pot calling the kettle black".

 

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