An Open Letter to the Champaign County Young Democrats

Dear friends,

As candidates for the Champaign Unit 4 School Board, we thank your group for its interest in the upcoming election. Encouraging young voters to get involved in local government is a worthy cause, and our civic community will benefit from fresh energy.

However, we respectfully decline your offer to consider endorsing our candidacies.

Of course we understand why you want to find out more about the school board candidates. First, you have a responsibility to your party to try to prevent right-wing extremists from holding public office. (I imagine the Republicans are similarly on the lookout for extreme leftists.) Second, the Democratic Party has benefited historically from registering and encouraging new voters. Naturally you would be interested to know how potential school board members feel about voter registration efforts, since many students are still in school when they turn 18 and become eligible to vote.

Regarding the two of us, our personal politics are hardly secret; most people who know us also know where our political allegiances lie. As realists, we recognize that having a party endorsement could very well gain us votes. As idealists, however, we believe that the non-partisan nature of school board elections should be preserved. We want to be able to ask qualified citizens of Champaign to provide advice, input, and expertise on Unit 4 issues without having political rivalries cloud the waters. We want voters from both parties to believe that we will represent our community and the interests of all of its students.

We firmly support voter registration and education efforts in our schools, as long as such efforts include any and all parties who wish to participate, according to district guidelines. Public education needs to produce citizens who will be active participants in the public sphere, in order for our country to thrive.

We ask you to consider whether giving party-specific endorsements in a non-partisan election is truly in the best interests of the electorate. Although we do not wish to be endorsed by a political party, we are both happy to discuss our views on school-related questions, to meet with your group, and to bring your concerns to the table.

Our best wishes,

Kathy Richards and Jonathan Westfield
Candidates for Champaign Unit 4 School Board

Emailed to the Champaign County Young Democrats on March 2, 2015

Kathy richards photo