Sara Vanden Berge

Let me begin by stating that Iím a traitor, dingbat and an idiot. Oh, and did I mention a left (or right) wing nut, depending on your party affiliation?

Iím hoping that little revelation will save those who will be writing me soon to tell me as much a little time.

After all, thereís fixiní to be an election Ďround these parts, which means Iím busy building a bunker to hide.

This time of the year always makes me a little edgy.

Iím not talking about the holidays. Iím referring to the political season, that joyous time of year when ordinary people turn into vicious politicos.

I havenít always felt like this. In fact, when I was a stay at home mom, I dedicated plenty of volunteer hours to several area races and loved the excitement of a good battle.

Over the years, however, that good cheer has been replaced by something less jolly, almost cynical. Iíve watched power corrupt once-good people. Iíve seen others who were great at their jobs get unelected because they had the wrong letter behind their name on the ballot. (R for Republican, D for Democrat.) Likewise, I have seen those with lesser qualifications than their opponents get elected because they belonged to the more popular party.

Iíve witnessed vicious barbs, a win-at-all-cost mentality and enough slung mud to turn me off to the process almost entirely.

And that happened before I moved into this office, which is a magnet for political crossfire. Since taking this job, Iíve been wounded by shrapnel on more than one occasion by people who, frankly, lose their minds during election years.

I remember getting beat up the morning after a hotly contested race that ended in a runoff several years ago. Straggling into work after a late election night, I was greeted by a barrage of hateful messages left on my voicemail. It seemed that supporters on both sides felt that I had given their candidate the raw end of the deal.

As I was listening to the angry messages, my phone rang again. It was an irate woman telling me how unfair my story was and crying foul.

Perhaps I was delirious from lack of sleep, but my response was somewhat unexpected. I started laughing.

ďYou think this is funny?Ē she screamed.

ďWell, actually I do.Ē

Then I went on to tell her that she was one in a long line of people, from both sides, who seemed to think that I liked the other candidate better than theirs. I told her I hardly knew either and really didnít give a rip who won. Then I hung up.

Thatís just a brief sampling of the kind of zaniness this time of the year brings.

Eggnog, anyone?

And with so many people already scrambling for next yearís spots, Iím bracing for a doozy and a robust game of musical chairs.

Already we are seeing candidates switch their party membership to run under the more popular of the two in Erath County. No one can blame them, of course. Itís no secret that Erath County has a strong Republican base and everyone likes to play with the popular kids.

The fact is, however, party affiliation should not play a part in many of these races. Why, for example, should a county commissioner have to declare an allegiance? None of their decisions will have any bearing on the national party platform. Ditto for the majority of the other local races that will be on the November ballot.

A good friend of mine who happens to be a die-hard Republican explained his thought process on why he votes straight party ticket every year and why he thinks party affiliation matters.

He rationalizes that by voting for all Republicans, he is assured his candidate will have a ďgood moral characterĒ and will not be tainted by the immoral beliefs of the other party.

Again, I giggled. Then I tried to explain to him that he could be getting duped. Iíve known plenty of candidates over the years who donít share his same beliefs, but belong to his political party for their own personal game.

We donít talk politics no moí.

As local races continue to take shape and the jockeying for position begins, I can only hope residents will ask themselves one thing before casting their ballots next year: Who is the most qualified for the job?

The other stuff just doesnít matter.

Sara Vanden Berge is managing editor for the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at 254-968-2379, ext. 240.