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Tammy Messina: Homework makes for a better America

Right Here Right Now

Posted: March 18, 2010 10:04 p.m.
Updated: March 19, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 
There are many issues to be addressed in our nation today, including energy, economy and health care. And with each one, there is a broad spectrum of ideologies suggested to resolve the issue. To say that these ideological differences cause plenty of controversy would be a gross understatement.

We see the rallies and we see the frustration of people on both sides of the issue. Personally, I think that's a good thing - as long as the frustration is channeled in a productive manner.

Frustration means that you care about what is happening. And more and more people are paying attention to what our government is doing, or not doing. That's good, too, as long as you aren't just listening to TV soundbites and political commercials.

We have three elections this year. If you're going to participate, you need to do your homework. Either research the candidates, or don't vote.

I hear people say our government is corrupt and our representatives are bad, but they're making blanket statements. Is your representative doing a good job? The only way you'll know is to look at their voting record and attendance. That information is available to you. But you have to look for it. Otherwise you haven't done your job to cast an informed ballot.

Not everyone in public office has done a bad job. Many are there representing us and fighting higher taxes and expanding government. I'm sure at times they feel like they are shoveling sand against the tide. They continue to make our voices heard but are often outnumbered.

Be careful to examine each incumbent before deciding it is better to replace them with "new blood." New is not always better.
There are many new candidates vying for public office this year who have never held public office. Again, I think it's good that people are getting involved and are willing to serve.

But you, as the voter, still have to do the footwork to get to know the candidate. Who they are, what they believe in and how they've voted in the past are important questions to ask. It isn't as easy as reviewing their past voting record as it is with incumbents. You have to look at how they've handled various life situations and try to determine how that will translate in their public service.

Watch each candidate closely. How do they handle the public? Do they take the time to listen? Are they actually answering the question that was asked? Or are they just giving you part of a prepared response that kind of fits? Are they someone you can relate to? Why?

Make sure you aren't drawing an emotional conclusion because, "she's a mom just like me," or "I met him once, he's such a nice guy." Where do they stand on the issues? Are you sure it isn't just a political speech? Have they shown consistency in the areas that are important to you?

Whether they're an incumbent or newcomer to politics, character counts. It's important to know what each candidate believes when it comes to issues, not just the political stance they are taking for the campaign.

While our representatives are just that - a representative voice for their constituency - their own beliefs will weigh into the decisions they make on our behalf. Let's face it, we as voters are not vocal about every legislative decision that is made. So we need to select a representative whose beliefs most closely match our own and who will listen when we do have an opinion about an issue.
Integrity in a candidate is key. A candidate with high integrity and character will vote according to the majority of his or her constituency even if it goes against his or her personal beliefs.

These are the people we need to identify and vote into office. But you can't do that by watching commercials. You need to get to know your candidate. Get out to see them speak in public. Watch interviews and debates.

America has advanced citizenship. You have a job to do before you cast each ballot. Know your candidate's character and track record. Don't cast a ballot without doing your homework.

Below are some resources that can assist you in your quest.

Voter resources:
Receive periodic updates regarding current federal legislation and how your representatives voted: www.congress.org  

Find your elected official and see your state and federal representatives' past voting records: www.votesmart.org

See your state representatives' voting/attendance records: www.californiarepublicanassembly.com/pdfs/2009-CRA-Legislative-Scorecard.pdf

See your local city officials' voting/attendance record: www.santa-clarita.com/cityhall/council/minutes/  

Tammy Messina is a resident of Santa Clarita and a local business owner. She can be reached at tmessina@wildcat.la. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Right Here, Right Now!" appears Fridays in The Signal and rotates among local Republican writers.

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