Giving “Career Politician” a Whole New Meaning

John Arcaro, an independent challenger for Pawtucket’s seat in the Rhode Island House of Representatives, directed my attention to an October piece about his race. I’m still naif enough to think this stunning:

[Rep. Elaine A. Coderre] hasn’t had an opponent for her House seat since 1986, when Raymond G. Berger, a Republican who opposed her in 1984, ran and lost again in what was then House District 78.

Almost twenty years! What, under those circumstances, is the difference between being an elected representative serving a series of terms and being a career employee? (Except, of course, that employees can lose their jobs because of changes in the marketplace or the business — private-sector employees, that is.) Whatever the lack of challengers might indicate about Pawtucket and Ms. Coderre, it certainly suggests that ours is not a healthy democracy.
Arcaro jokes, in correspondence, that his campaign offered “an amazing show of fiscal conservatism”: he spent $21.39 to Corderre’s $4,817.12. Think about that. For the price of a case of beer, he took 30% of the vote and forced the state Democrats to expend 225 times more in resources.
Being more an ideologue than a player, I’ve never given much thought to political strategy, but in a system as sick as ours, it would surely be for the health of the state for random people to up and run for office. Forcing campaigns even in relatively safe districts would spread out the Democrats’ resources, chipping away at their monetary advantage in areas in which they actually face competition.
And who knows — a keg might win the race!

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