We elect people to the statehouse to represent us, not to campaign.
Whether it is our state representatives, senators or even the governor, public servants do all of us a disservice when they use their office and public resources to campaign.
Of course, everyone will deny ever doing that.
They will all attest their adherence to state ethics laws.
Technical compliance, however, does not mean they do not breach the public trust and blur the lines between governing and campaigning.
When bill signings, public meetings, press conferences, town halls, newsletters and email blasts — and other “constituent services” — amount to little more than bragging and grandstanding about legislative accomplishments, it is painfully obvious that those lawmakers are really campaigning instead of serving.
Sadly, it often seems like state lawmakers begin the next campaign season the moment they are elected or re-elected to office.
Actually, the words “campaign season” have become a misnomer, because it seems there is never a season that is void of campaigning. There is little difference between serving in office and running for office.
Even leading up to and during the legislative session, instead of meeting with constituents to hear their concerns or answer their questions, lawmakers make appearances to tell the public all the great things they are doing on their behalf.
That’s campaigning, no matter what you call it.
Reporters calling elected officials to interview them about some bill or proposal often have to wade through every answer just to find a simple reply in a sea of grandstanding, bragging and ad hoc campaigning.
The people we elect to public office should simply let their work do their talking.
The public, and especially voters, are intelligent enough to make their own decisions about the quality of public service they are getting from the people they elect.
If you want to campaign for office buy advertisements.
At least that is honest and above board.
When you advertise, or even hold a rally publicized as a campaign event, you are clearly campaigning and we can all accept that for what it is and evaluate it for what is.
When we elect you, we expect you to govern in open and transparent ways, doing the public’s business in public without subterfuge or nefarious intent, and the public has every right and reason to expect you to be just as authentic when you campaign for office without blurring those lines between your duties as a lawmaker and your desire for re-election.
But please, just stop campaigning on our dime.
CNHI Deputy National Editor Jim Zachary is the company’s regional editor for its Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Texas newspapers and the editor of the Valdosta Daily Times. He is vice president of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation.