Make your selection in local election

Don’t let national presidential race overshadow local races

On November 4, 2012

There's one day to go before Election Day, and the names of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are more familiar to you than members of your own family. But can you name your state senator or district representative?

The Congress approval rating is currently at 21 percent according to Gallup, yet most members of Congress are poised for re-election. At least 15 senators of the 22 seeking re-election are expected to sign on to new terms. The same is true for at least 330 House members.

We hate them, but we won't get rid of them.Andmost people hate them blindly. According to an older survey, only 25 percent of American adults can correctly name their U.S. senators. There's no exact number on how many people can name their local representatives, but some polls place the number at around only 10 percent. 

Local elections don't get the glitz and glamour of the national election so they don't get our full attention, but people don't realize the impact they have. Look at New York, a predominantly democratic state where many feel like their vote in the presidential election won't make any difference. Local elections are an entirely different game, especially in the more conservative-voting precincts. Many of those areas are only a few minutes away from Buffalo. Because they don't have to cater to the entire country or worry about appealing to a wide range of people, individual precincts can afford to be as extreme as they want to be.

Maybe that's why there seems to be an increase in the number of vicious ads this year on the local level. The Buffalo News reported that political advertising in the 27th Congressional District in Buffalo and Rochester has reached nearly $5 million.

It's all noise at this point - noise that we're ignoring and have ignored for years. According to Erie County election officials, voter turnout in 2008 was at about 42 percent with over 75,000 ballots cast.

But some of the most important issues are determined at the local level. Obama and Romney can preach all day about what they intend to do for the education system, but your representatives make the most immediate decisions. That's why it's so important to know what your candidates stand for and to vote.

That doesn't mean the presidential election isn't important, as it certainly holds a place in balancing the national budget, controlling broad domestic affairs and managing foreign policy. But the presidential candidates don't come to your town and take care of you personally. They deal with the grand, broad issues and issues of national importance. What goes on in your hometown is not their problem.

Here in Buffalo, the biggest races have big implications for students. In the race for New York's 26th Congressional District, incumbent Brian Higgins and Republican challenger Michael Madigan have both made their plans for education reform. Higgins wants to make student loan interest deductible and expand deduction to more middle class applicants. Madigan focuses more on primary-school education, seeking to improve education by improving the skills of teachers to help children get skilled labor jobs and offering parental education in poorly performing schools.

Another big race is the seat for State Senator in the 60th District between Michael Amodeo and incumbent Senator Mark Grisanti. Grisanti is a proud supporter of UB 2020, the university's expansion program, while Amodeo wants to find a solution to community college chargebacks and opposes increases in SUNY tuition.

The difference between their wants and the wants of our presidential candidates? Our local candidates actually have the power to reform these issues.

Pay attention to your local races and their impact. One of the pluses of getting involved in your local elections is that your representatives are right there, available to meet or talk to with only a couple of phone calls. Want to know what they stand for? Attend a local meeting or talk to them personally.

When you go out and cast your ballot tomorrow, remember it's not just about Mitt Romney or Barack Obama. Make a difference and vote for your local representatives.



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