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Opinion: Even if you don’t like the candidates, hold your nose and vote

By , Guest Columnist Updated: October 26, 2022 5:38 PM CT | Published: October 25, 2022 4:00 AM CT
Susan Adler Thorp
Guest Columnist

Susan Adler Thorp

Susan Adler Thorp is the former political columnist for The Commercial Appeal. She is the owner of Susan Adler Thorp Communications, which advises clients on communication strategies and effective media coverage.

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It’s been said that if you don’t vote, you should lose your right to complain. After nearly 50 years of observing politics in Memphis, I couldn’t agree more. So here’s a word of warning: There are two weeks before Nov. 8, Election Day, and early voting is underway.

The current election doesn’t have the dazzle of a presidential election nor the interest already circulating about next year’s mayoral election. Little wonder, since it’s headlined by a few unexciting races such as a City Court judgeship, some school board seats, a state senate seat, a lamely contested governor’s race, and two humdrum congressional races.

But regardless of how irrelevant this election may seem, it still matters. Which means your vote matters.

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I’ve learned over the years that voting has extra benefits. It will give you something important to fight about over dinner. It will give you one more reason to go to church and pray. It’ll even make you use your brain and think about whether you want the guy on the porch or the doctor who swears.

I’m fully aware of the arguments against voting. It’s a waste of time. It won’t change anything. No time to vote. Can’t trust any of them. My candidate won’t win anyway. And the newest and most befuddling excuse: Elections can be stolen, so why bother. Stolen by whom? Poll workers who volunteer to stay up all night counting the votes on election night? Once these good citizens steal an election, what are they going to do with it? Here’s an idea: Ship it to North Korea and ask those folks if they’d like a free election.

If you can’t be cajoled into voting, then let’s get serious. Elections matter because our lives matter. Our lives are affected by the people we vote into office. Elections are about the taxes we pay, the books our kids read (or don’t read) in school. They’re about license plates and sewers and unions and healthcare and potholes and traffic tickets and roadkill and fighter jets and rape kits and libraries and guns and garbage and climate change and social security. Your vote matters.

I’m fully aware that the results of this year’s elections in a ruby-red state like Tennessee are predictable. But don’t let that keep you from making your voice heard. This year’s sleepy election is just as important as the big ones when the U.S. president or city mayor tops the ticket. If you think our current governor, Bill Lee, will win another term, you’re probably right. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t cast a vote for his opponent if you don’t agree with the governor and the porch he sits on.

As for West Tennessee, we have a chance to elect a new state senator to replace Brian Kelsey, who didn’t seem to give a rat’s patootie about what happened in Memphis. For that important state senate seat, we have a chance to elect a familiar face, Brent Taylor, who emerged from the business world to run again for public office. He’s a former Memphis city councilman who understands the problems of the state’s largest city.

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There’s no doubt Taylor cares about his base of voters in the suburbs, but here’s betting he’ll be a strong voice for Memphis in Nashville – something our city desperately needs. His opponent, Ruby Powell-Dennis, appears to be a good Democrat in a heavily Republican district, but she seems overly concerned that Taylor is spending his own money on his own campaign. That’s a new one for me.

You can re-elect Congressman Steve Cohen, who has a long history of voting for Democratic causes, or you can cast your ballot for his Republican opponent, Charlotte Bergman, a perennial GOP candidate who has a remarkable history of losing elections. Or if you live in the 8th Congressional District, you can vote for the GOP’s favorite son, U.S. Rep. David Kustoff, who represents arguably the most conservative district in Tennessee. If you’re a Democrat unfortunate enough to live in that district, you still can exercise your right by voting for Kustoff’s Democratic opponent. There is one, Lynnette P. Williams.

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And don’t forget there’s a City Court judge race on the ballot. At last count, nine candidates are running for that seat. I can’t blame any of them. It pays about $170,000 a year and you don’t have to show up for work. No one’s watching.

I have a friend who won’t vote because he doesn’t like any of the candidates. He doesn’t think any of them tell the truth. I asked him which candidates are lying and, no surprise, he couldn’t name one. I assured him that candidates exaggerate, but few of them lie. Most are good people who actually believe they can make our community better until they get into office and find out it’s not so easy.

My advice: Pick the candidate who says he or she will do what sounds good to you, go to the polls, hold your nose and vote. And in case I haven’t convinced you yet, here’s one more side effect from voting: You’ll sleep better at night because you exercised your right to vote — the same right for which millions of Americans died so all of us can be free and have a voice in our government.

Editor’s Note: Susan Adler Thorp is a political consultant, but is not working for any of the candidates mentioned in this column.



Guest Columns U.S. Rep. David Kustoff U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen Charlotte Bergmann Brent Taylor Brian Kelsey


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