OSWEGO, NY – Do you know who’s running for local, state, and national offices in Oswego? Some names quickly come to mind: John Mannion, Kathy Hochul, Lee Zeldin, Claudia Tenney, and more.
But do you really know them?
During the run-up to the 2022 midterm elections, party lines and values have dominated the conversation. For central New York high school teacher Mike Mallett, it’s been difficult to learn about the person behind the name on the ballot.
“I don’t even think we have candidates who have name recognition for being good candidates,” said Mallett. “You need that R or D to get on a ballot now. I feel like many people are stuck to that R or D and vote based on that letter. The person is irrelevant unfortunately.”
For voters who aren’t with a party like Mallett, it’s been difficult to decide who to pencil in for position. The polarized political spectrum seems to have cropped a lot of the personality and character of candidates clear out of the picture. The pressure on both parties to perform this midterm has also contributed to increased hard-line politics.
The pressure isn’t just felt in Oswego County. Georgetown University government student Sean Bronson is living and working in Washington, D.C. as the midterms heat up.
“It’s a hectic time in D.C. I’m on a pretty politically active college campus which helps that, but everyone knows how much pressure rides on this election,” said Bronson. “We have GU Politics, which is an organization on campus. They’ve been going all out on getting everyone to vote for the past two months. Even our coffee shops have mail in ballot drop offs. It’s an intense time.”
The search for good candidates continues to prove difficult for Mallett and Bronson as they look beyond the Republican and Democrat platforms. Their interests in candidates beyond the confines of the two-party system illustrate some of the differences and similarities in the younger and middle-aged voter bases.
“I’m looking to see how they treat their opposing candidate as well as other people if it’s a town hall event. I am looking for people who are respectful and disagree appropriately,” said Mallett. “Someone that can see both sides. You can’t be stuck in your ways and see things from party lines. I like to see someone that can find a common solution.
“Does the candidate recognize the 2020 election? It does somewhat follow party lines, as a lot of those candidates end up being Democrat,” said Bronson. But, that is big to me. It’s more about if they’re pandering to basic instincts or focusing on how I can help all people. I’m looking to help people, especially those who can’t help themselves.”
Candidates that seem to have cross-generational appeal tend to be strong orators that send a message of help or hope. Barack Obama brought out young and old voters alike in his 2008 campaign.
Through his work with Georgetown’s Department of Government, Bronson has worked around political campaigns in the past. If one thing is clear about campaigning in 2022, it’s how much social media has moved campaigns off the ground and into wifi routers. That may very well be part of the reason that candidates aren’t as personally relevant as once before.
“Honestly, it’s so easy to get information on candidates now. We rely so heavily on political narrators and opinion formers for information that the candidates don’t have to work as hard to get the message across,” said Bronson. “The average voter can get information. Part of it is also the extent of political polarization in the country. I don’t expect most voters registered with a party are going to break party lines, especially in this election.”
In time, how the ballot boxes empty out in the 2022 midterms may tell us a lot about what modern American voters want in a candidate. However, there are trends from the past that still ring somewhat true today in what a candidate needs to succeed.
“I think the ideal candidate is good looking, good speaking, charismatic, well-funded, well-traveled, and well connected. If a candidate wants to win an election, they kind of have to have all of these pieces,” said Bronson. “Candidates with military backgrounds or an extensive background in law always do extremely well. People vote for candidates that fit these molds regardless of what they’re saying or their platform.”