Elect vs. Re-Elect

By: Roger Sheppard
By: Roger Sheppard

Knotts, Kelly Hope Voters Respect Previous Service

To Elect or Re-Elect, that is the question.

It's funny how two little letters and a hyphen can mean so much.

There are two former office-holders in Wood County, seeking to win back their former offices who are asking the voters to "re-elect" them.

Gene Knotts, long-time Wood County assessor who gave up that job more than a decade ago to run for and win the Mayor's race in Parkersburg, is again running for assessor.

And John Kelly, a former member and former president of Parkersburg City Council, is now wanting to get back on council after an absence of 12 years.

Both candidates are using the word "re-elect" on their campaign signs and the Secretary of State's office says there's nothing wrong with this.

It's funny about the word re-elect.

Usually it is used to ask voters to once again vote for the person who currently occupies a position -- the incumbent. In these cases, it is being used to ask voters to select a person who used to hold the position.

There have been times in politics where the word "re-elect" has been a bad word. If people think a legislative body or city council has not done a particularly good job, incumbents will avoid the word altogether, and simply ask people to "elect" them. That's called trying to run as the candidate of change, when you've also been the candidate who got us to where we are. And that's when the candidate believes his or her own personality out-weighs the baggage that he or she might carry from having already been in office.

But the odd twist here is, that usually when a candidate is proud enough to say "re-elect me," it's because that person believes that the current office-holder -- usually himself or herself -- has been doing a good job and voters will want to keep that continuity.

In this case, Mr. Knotts and Mr. Kelly have not been in these positions for several years. One might infer that if voters merely see the word "re-elect" on a campaign sign, they might vote for whoever is currently in office.

In Mr. Kelly's case, that could be bad news, because he's not currently on council. Mr. Knotts doesn't have to worry about that confusion since the currrent assessor, Steve Grimm, is retiring.

But do candidates' experiences from more than a decade ago really mean anything when they seek election -- or "re-election" -- to their former jobs?

Laws have changed. Dynamics have changed. People have changed. The jobs themselves have changed. Will these candidates be able to get enough voters to recall the good things they believe they accomplished in their previous terms, to get elected...again?

That, indeed, is the larger question.

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