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Resign-to-run loophole threatens local leadership

Florida’s political arena is likely to become a more competitive playing field, thanks to recent changes to the resign-to-run law. But is this a good thing?

Under the old law, Florida politicians were required to resign from their positions if they ran for another office. According to a recent article in The Tampa Tribune, a loophole has been included in an election law reform that mandates paper trails at the polls and moves up the state’s presidential primary date. This loophole provides an exemption to resignation in the case of individuals running for federal offices. It would also allow individuals to run for two offices at the same time, so long as one is federal. While this change will increase competition for Florida’s congressional seats, thus giving voters more options, it may do more harm than good.

A politician is elected for the purpose of serving his or her constituents by performing a particular job. That job is generally not to run for another office.

Such an enterprise, particularly in the multimedia world of modern politics, is a hefty consumer of both time and money. This puts the citizens of Florida in a situation where their elected officials can now be both distracted from their duties by campaign demands and suffer a greater temptation to cater to special interest groups in order to obtain much-needed campaign funds.

In addition to questions regarding the loophole’s practicality, the process by which it entered the law is on the shady side. According to the Tribune article, Florida Department of State spokesman Sterling Ivey said that he’s not sure legislators realized they were voting for a bill that allowed candidates to run for two offices at the same time, and that the amendment “was inserted very late in the process while a lot of things were being added to the bill.”

This sort of political maneuvering is suspect at best, and is a bad sign for the future of Florida politics under the new rules. Though Gov. Charlie Crist said that he is “focused on Florida” rather than presidential politics, it is difficult to imagine that the possibility of his becoming a running mate for the Republican 2008 presidential nominee did not at all influence his signing off on the bill.

This loophole is a bad idea for Florida residents. Gaining more choices for congressional positions in exchange for less focused local leaders is a poor trade.