With each passing day we get closer to election season. More and more candidates running for a seat on the Board of County Commission make their case to voters. I too, have been watching closely to the field of candidates and have been doing my research on each candidate. This task is not hard, considering Downtown Sebring and many areas along U.S. 27 are covered with political signs.
Through this, I noticed a common theme present amongst candidates and our current government alike. Of the 13 candidates running for either reelection or election to the Board of County Commission, 11 of them are Republican. There is nothing wrong with being a Republican candidate and I am not writing to insult a Republican. Instead, I am posing a simple question: What makes you different from the other Republicans running for that seat?
It seems that everyone runs on the same platform of being a long-time resident of Highlands County, gun rights, pro-Trump stances, and supporting agriculture. Not to mention that nearly every candidate has a Facebook page for their campaign. This just means that every candidate becomes a list of names on the ballot with “REP” spelled out next to their names.
Personally, if I were a candidate, it is something I would totally take advantage of. To do so, candidates have to ask themselves, what can I bring to this office that no one else can? Is it a list of new industries that I want to bring to Highlands County, and in turn, create high paying jobs? Is it my proposed emphasis on improving Highlands County infrastructure through road repairs or new road signs?
These ideas must both be unique to the field of candidates and relevant to the office they are running for. Along with their ideas, candidates must connect to voters in a different manner besides just signs. Voters want to connect to candidates on a personal level and know that their opinions will be important to the candidate.
This is perfectly shown through Jeff Carlson, who is running for District 3 on the Board of County Commission. Every Monday morning, Carlson hosts a Facebook livestream titled “Coffee with Carlson” at Strangely Warmed Coffee in Downtown Sebring. Not only is this something his opponents are not doing, but it is a way for voters to connect with Jeff Carlson through a cup of coffee. It creates name recognition, allows voters to know who they are voting for, and they go vote with the impression that Jeff Carlson is a friendly person.
The disadvantage candidates have when running for local offices is that not a lot of voters are fully informed about the elections. They either consider the office irrelevant or have little to no knowledge about the election. It becomes an uphill battle for the candidates, but it makes the points mentioned in today’s column all the more important. The more people know about the candidates, the more likely you have people voting, and the more likely people are not going to christmas tree the ballot.
So, to all the candidates running for seats on the Board of County Commission who may be reading this, I ask that you find ways to separate yourself from the field of candidates. Voters want to know why you deserve their vote and what you can bring to our great county that other do not have.
Miguel Arceo is a student athlete at Sebring High School.