Saturday, May 07, 2005


I voted button

In the weeks prior to the mayoral election, I spoke to acquaintances about the slate of candidates. And the prevailing opinion was there was no candidate on the slate worth voting for. “It’s very discouraging,” was one complaint. “I’m sitting this one out,” was another.

My circle of acquaintances is not large, but it is diverse, including some fairly conservative individuals. But liberal or conservative, they said they were disgusted by Portsmouth politics and frustrated by the slim mayoral pickings, so they decided to stay away from the polls on May 3.

What surprised me was not how many decided not to vote but how many expressed regret that Frank Gerlach was not a candidate. Even some Republicans expressed this view, and they said they knew other Republicans who felt the same way. They had not felt that way in the past, but after seven years of Bauer, Gerlach began to look petty good. I don’t claim to know if such feelings are widespread since I am reporting on a fairly small sample. I haven’t seen any “Bring Back Gerlach” bumper stickers.

But I know I felt most of the serious candidates were compromised by their involvement in the corruption of the Bauer years, in particular by the Marting scandal, and they have not done or said anything to lead me to believe they have turned over a new leaf. None of those on the ballot publicly stated they were against making the Marting building the new city hall, but Gerlach has. None of those on the ballot said publicly the current form of city government is inefficient and should be changed, but Gerlach has. None of those on the ballot has said the Municipal Building is worth saving, but Gerlach has. None of those on the ballot has served as the elected mayor of Portsmouth, but Gerlach has.

Unfortunately, Gerlach did not choose to run. Perhaps he believes he has paid his dues and can live without the hassles of public office. Still, I decided I would rather vote for somebody who was qualified but not on the ballot than for any of the unqualified who were. I decided it was a waste of time trying to figure out who was the lesser of several evils. Instead of staying away from the polls, I decided to go and vote for someone I wish had been a candidate.

I was warned that writing in a candidate is complicated. It isn’t. On the inside of the sleeve that holds ballot, there is column for writing in a candidate. All it takes is a pencil. I did my civic duty. I voted, even if it was for someone not on the ballot.