America's uncontested political battles
by Abi Censky, editor
I received four emails from the Clinton Campaign Wednesday, and that’s not unusual. It’s irritating. The whole four email a day thing, still an excruciating seven months away from the general election. Almost all emails ask for me to “chip in just $1” and the area goal for today will be met—the Clinton campaign safe for another day. In the day to day flood of emails, it’s easy to forget that there are uncontested elections these days. Elections where there is only one candidate.
While this would never happen at the general election level, it actually happens all of the time in congressional and local races. For example, in 2014, Republicans put up no challenger in 37 House races, Democrats ceded 32 districts without a fight, according to David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report. If you consider both Washington and California allow two members of the same party to run against one another in a single district the total number of single-party races, rose to 77 House races in 2014— a 22 percent jump from in 2012.
Let that sink in. Despite all this Trump, Cruz, Kasich, Sanders and Clinton madness, just two years ago 77 races for the U.S. House of Representatives went uncontested. Uncontested elections happen and not only do they happen pretty frequently, they’re actually on the rise.
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Three hours into a road trip across Colorado my best friend Morgan was filling me in on our friend Victor’s life since our fateful last brunch over the summer. “His dad is actually running for City Commissioner…unopposed”, she said. I laughed. That sounded like something out of “Parks and Recreation”. Enthusiastic candidate going door to door, printing yard signs and making speeches, all while guaranteed to win. “Who would do that, right?” I thought. Who would go to all that effort to win an uncontested election? That’s hilarious!
Enter Florida Attorney Victor DeBianchi.
“As soon as I got out of court I called you, because then I knew I could relax!” DeBianchi says, drawing out the ends of his sentences in his endearing nasally tone. It sounds a bit like a Long Island accent, but slower as if Long Island bordered the South. Let’s call it a Long Island drawl. He’s been a resident of Hollywood, FL as he says proudly, “my whole life, since I was conceived”.
He thanks me for calling and tells me he’s honored to be talking with me. Victor, his son, told him I would call. He’s excited. This is the first of his official interviews for his race for City Commissioner in Hollywood, FL. The press junket is a little slim so far, because he’s running unopposed. “Victor got some campaign buttons for me!” he tells me, “I wear them around for fun”
This whole race for City Commissioner came up when his neighbor of 29 years—a dear friend from across the street—decided that she would be vacating her seat as commissioner to run for Mayor in November.
When he heard the news he asked four or five friends if they would do it. He even asked his wife. “‘Look,’ I asked her, ‘would you please do it?’” She said no. So he stepped up.
“You have to care about the city,” he says, when I ask him what the general qualifications for city commissioner are. DeBianchi says everything with a tone of knowing confidence and degree of finality, yet it doesn’t come off as righteous, just vaguely Yoda-esque. And while Mr. DeBianchi initially searched for someone else to run for the seat, now that he’s declared, he’s committed.
“I decided to run on February 1st and declared on February 22nd, George Washington’s birthday—you know,” he says, “I thought it was prophetic.”
The first declared candidate dropped out when she heard he was running; though, he does concede there are three other gentleman who are considering running (the filing deadline has not yet passed). All three are clients of his.
However, he’s called them each personally. It wasn’t so much of a strategy or an admonishment as it was an admission when he said, “I don’t really think you should, I think it’s my time…and you know I won’t be in there forever, you can have your turn after me.” I take his word for it— I don’t think he has a conniving politician’s bone in his body, and I believe him when he says he wants to run “a nice, clean, honest campaign.” After just 10 minutes on the phone, he’s sold me that his character is infallible.
He touts his residency and love of the community as his largest qualification, saying, “The first thing I could say is that I’ve been campaigning 58 years since I’ve been living here in the society…58 years I’ve done all the right things,” adding Kiwanis club, the Florida BAR association, and a longstanding presence in Hollywood history to the list of qualifiers of his community involvement. He cites a recent Hollywood Gazette article in which he was featured “I’m on page six and seven, that was kind of my kick off.”
“In all honesty, Abigail,” Mr. DeBianchi confides, “I don’t know what I’m doing but once I win…I’ll figure that out.” He’s calmly reliant on his love for the community and his safe passage through the election.
As the conversation draws to a close, he senses it’s time for summation, and he asks me, “Have you ever seen the Robert Redford movie ‘The Candidate,’ Abigail?” I answer that I’ve heard of it, but never seen it. DeBianchi gives a quick summary, novice candidate running for Senate— you know the drill.
“Well P.S. “ DeBianchi says emphatically, “at the end of the movie, he won, and then he said to the campaign chief, ‘Well, what do we do now?’” He pauses with dramatic flourish before adding with characteristic chutzpah, “Well, I don’t have a platform or any plan other than to be honest and fair, and listen to people’s concerns…my heart is really in it.”
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Almost makes you feel charmed by our American democracy again, right? Uncontested elections have the power to trasnport you away from our frenzied perennial tryst with American presidential politicking. Small-scale democracy seems like a dreamy twilight in comparison to the myopic media firestorm of campaign season that we’re in currently. Politics without the debating and only the DeBianchis of the world—it’d be nice. If all candidates romanticized Redford’s last lines in “The Candidate” and ran for office things would be smooth sailing.
But careful! Not too quick. In the time that you’ve been reading this, you’ve received four new emails from the respective presidential candidates. Just know that in all of your feverish dreams until November, somewhere in America, there are real-life Redford’s out there running blissfully uncontested.