I know it’s still 2019, but I want to talk about the 2020 elections. When we think of elections and Election Day, we usually think of November and often focus on the presidential elections that come every four years. With the next presidential election a year away, it’s easy to think that we have plenty of time left to get involved in the electoral process and our decisions will be easy to make. But next year’s presidential election is just one of the hundreds of races in the state that will affect law enforcement. Besides the presidential race, there are 53 congressional races, 80 State Assembly races and 20 State Senate races.
Since many of us work for local governments and special districts, we also cannot overlook our local races. In addition to the federal and state races, there are City Council, County Supervisor, School Board and many other local government elections. For municipal police officers and county deputies, these local elections can have a significant impact on law enforcement officers. Local officials set salaries and benefits, direct law enforcement policies, appoint police chiefs and other local administrators, and can affect community relations. The local elected officials who run our local governments can make or break a local law enforcement agency. Poor salaries and benefits, as well as local policies hostile to law enforcement, can significantly affect morale and lead to recruitment and retention problems. It is critical that law enforcement associations be actively involved in local races.
In most years, we have until the June primary to address the litany of political contests facing California voters. This election cycle is different. The state has advanced the primary election to March 3, 2020, instead of the usual June date. This was done so that California can be more relevant in selecting the presidential candidates. The new date also has a significant impact on local elections: It has cut three months off the campaign period for the primary and lengthened the period of time between the primary and the general elections. Those who have not prepared and made adjustments to react to the new date will lose their opportunity to influence important races.
Many of the local elections are on the March ballot and can be resolved if a candidate gets a simple majority. In those cases, there will be no runoff or general election in the fall. Associations and officers who miss participating in the March election could lose their opportunity to have input in selecting their local leaders. State and congressional races will have a primary election where the top two candidates, regardless of party affiliation, will face each other in the November general election.
Often, law enforcement associations can have a significant impact on local elections. PORAC, as a statewide organization, is already actively involved in the state and federal races. PORAC has made several endorsements and will complete its endorsements at our November Board meeting. While PORAC does endorse local candidates, it relies on local associations to interview and vet candidates. Local associations can bring local candidates to their chapters for endorsements. Each chapter of PORAC has access to PAC funds to make contributions to local races when appropriate.
I encourage all members and associations to be active participants in the electoral process. Interview and inform your local candidates. Endorse and support candidates who will advance policies that support law enforcement. Bring those candidates to your local PORAC chapter so that they can receive the support and backing that only PORAC can provide.