Elected Offices Are Political Offices

I don’t always agree with Steve Barron on every issue, but I think this line of criticism of him from Bill White is way off base:

My offense? Criticizing Barron’s grandstanding approach and the effect it has on the credibility of his office. You can read my terrorist manifesto here.

Of course, Barron never was more visible than in the fight to keep the Stoffa administration and County Council from privatizing Gracedale, ultimately achieved through a referendum. This earned him — and McClure –the lasting adulation of the county union people and others who were successful in keeping Gracedale in the county’s control.

If you don’t want the Controller to behave like a politician, then don’t make the Controller an elected position. If you force people to do politics to get the Controller seat – raise money, build a coalition of political actors and interest groups – then you can’t expect them not to deliver what that coalition wants. And insofar as Democratic politics in Northampton is dominated by labor, the Controller is going to behave like a partisan of labor. That’s what he has to do to keep the seat. That’s why I don’t favor elections for row offices. But if you’re going to have them, you certainly can’t blame people for doing what’s required get and keep the job.


  1. Michael Donovan says:

    A true statesman or woman would rise above the clamor of interest groups, but unfortunately, many Americans do not want such a person. Elected offices are supposed to be responsible offices with people who know how to perform a job that maximizes the welfare of the greatest number of people. That is sound public policy, not politics for a select interest group with excessive power, partially caused by PA’s antiquated “lever” voting processes.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      I agree, but I think it means two things.

      1. you need to reduce the number of elected offices. Only representatives and mayors should be elected, not random row offices as in Lehigh County.

      2. you need more competitive politics, that seeks out more interest groups to bring into the coalition. LV Democrats are lazy, only relying on labor, and that’s the reason that public policy under LV Democrats tilts too much toward *exactly* what labor wants. What they need instead is a coalition that includes labor, but checks some of labor’s bad habits like protectionism and rent-seeking. Politicians can’t only be answering to labor.

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