One job that very few people seem to want

Wanted: Seasonal employees for winter months and occasional work the rest of the year. Preference given to those with other full-time jobs, though applicants will be expected to put their other job responsibilities aside for weeks at a time. Extensive travel may be required. Thick skin and public-speaking skills a plus. Fundraising experience a major plus. Pay: $17,000 a year, plus expenses.

Despite the down economy, that job description drew relatively few applicants: just 410 for 236 positions, compared to almost 20,000 people who recently put in for the 877 new jobs at an Alabama auto plant.

Making Hyundais, it appears, is more appealing work than making laws in Georgia.

The Republican and Democratic parties in May held qualifying for this year’s local, state and federal elections. As usual, the number of candidates for the job of state representative or senator is underwhelming.

As in 2010, about three in five incumbent state legislators are running completely unopposed, with no challenger in the July primary or November’s general election (barring third-party entrants or write-in candidates). And that actually represents more competition than in 2006 and 2008.

Worse, just six incumbent senators out of 54, and eight of 156 seeking re-election to the House, are opposed in both the primary and general elections.

Open seats aren’t much more competitive, with 18 of 26 in the House and one of two in the Senate being contested by just one of the major parties.

Redistricting brought new maps for this year’s legislative seats, and there’s no denying the Republican-leaning seats got redder and the Democrat-leaning seats bluer. But I think that’s only part of the story.

Bottom line, being a state legislator is a pretty crummy deal. Don’t believe me? Take another look at the job description at the top of this column. Sure, I could have polished it to make it sound more appealing, but I didn’t exaggerate the downside. I didn’t have to.

If you live and work in, say, Ocilla, you’re looking at driving 180 miles to Atlanta on Monday morning, spending the week away from your family and your regular job, then driving back home for the weekend. And then repeating that weekly, for the better part of January through March, and often much of April.

And then coming back to Atlanta every now and then for committee meetings through the summer and fall.

And, of course, having to run for re-election every two years, which means spending a lot of your free time raising money.

Back when most of the state was agrarian, a farmer could afford to spend much of the winter away from home and serving the public. (Legislative sessions also tended not to last as long back then.) Nowadays, few people are farmers, and most jobs don’t give one the luxury of taking off two and three and four months at a time.

One of the suggestions I’ve gotten while writing about ethics reform during the past several months is that we just need to elect more ethical people. If you believe that, you have to recognize the dearth of people willing to do the job at all.

Ethics reform aside, more electoral competition would be a good thing. Changing ballot-access laws to allow more third-party entrants is one possibility. Paying legislators more — though not, in my view, making the job full-time — has to be on the table. I’d even consider holding mini-sessions of the Legislature throughout the year rather than one solid block of time in the winter, or having legislators meet biennially.

But if we want more competitive elections, we need to make the job itself more attractive.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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94 comments Add your comment

Rafe Hollister- trying to save the Choom Gang

June 1st, 2012
6:29 pm

I like the biannually, whose spelling is correct? Maybe tri-annually would be better.

Rafe Hollister- trying to save the Choom Gang

June 1st, 2012
6:37 pm

They also might attract more candidates. if they could get a law passed that for every new law passed, they had to repeal an old law.,

Real Athens

June 1st, 2012
6:45 pm

The payoff, er, paycheck doesn’t come from the state.

the red herring

June 1st, 2012
6:59 pm

every comment so far has been “spot on”—- legislators make their money off the payola. they usually make enough so that they are well compensated for their inconveniences….. thus the situation we find ourselves in. it should be easier for real working people to participate in being a member of the legislature. that’s a lot of what is wrong with state and country—ordinary folks who work for a living simply can’t be allowed to participate in making the laws that govern themselves. i disagree with for every new law or new regulation that is passed having to repeal one. it should be for every new law/regulation passed that 3 should be repealed.

DawgDad

June 1st, 2012
7:13 pm

“ordinary folks who work for a living simply can’t be allowed to participate in making the laws that govern themselves”

It’s difficult to envision a scenario whereby powerful people intent on obtaining access to the legislative process are not able to do so. The ordinary citizen walking into the halls of power won’t be “ordinary” very long, regardless of the public benefits conferred. Confer too much public benefit, making them too independent, and you have created a tyrant. Confer too little you guarantee they will seek out and serve specific interests as a priority. Actually, our system works pretty well when the voters pay attention, pretty shabily when they don’t.

Thoma Heyward jr

June 1st, 2012
7:29 pm

There is no amount of money to make a good,decent person to show up at the capital, be confined with a bunch of crooked Georgia lawyers, and spend all day figuring out ways to finance corruption and how to steal from Georgia citizens.
.
The lack of interest in these types of positions ..is really a good thing.
.
The good decent people are……………shrugging.

Hillbilly D

June 1st, 2012
8:53 pm

Just a historical footnote, at the Constitutional Convention, Ben Franklin argued that elected members of government shouldn’t be paid. Pros and cons to that but it’s something to think about.

As the great grandson and great-great grandson of members of the Georgia House, I can say that they looked on it as serving their community, not a career. They served a couple of terms and then left it for somebody else to have a turn. Neither was a lawyer, by the way.

I think the Founding Fathers (well most of them) intended for legislative bodies to represent the general population. It’s not that way and it hasn’t been for a long time. It’s pretty much impossible for a welder, a factory worker, a secretary, etc, to even think about running for any office other than local and even those are a stretch for most.

Maybe we ought to make it like the military draft, send somebody in each district a draft notice that they’re now a member of the Legislature for the next session. Most of those folks would just want to get the job done and go home.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

June 1st, 2012
9:10 pm

And to think, they are far more beneficial to We The People than obozo is.

td

June 1st, 2012
9:36 pm

If the job is so bad then why are their so many lawyers that are willing to give up 3 to 4 months of billable hours (15 weeks at 40 hours per week @ $300 per hr equals $180,000)?

the red herring

June 1st, 2012
9:51 pm

kyle—o.t. but you should address an article on food stamp fraud in georgia and why only the store owners are prosecuted and not the food stamp recipients as well—it’s a two way street. dawg dad—if you don’t see my point regarding political corruption then you really haven’t followed georgia politics very long or perhaps have benefited from the corruption yourself. we simply have the best legislature that can be bought (by outside interests that is)… ever ask yourself why someone making 200k per year in a private business would seek public office that only pays a pittance?
the answer is clear if you only will open your eyes to see it.

Allison

June 1st, 2012
9:52 pm

Hillbilly D has it right. It used to be considered serving the public. That was back when people cared about the public, the community, their fellow man. Now all anyone wants to know is, “what’s in it for me?”

ragnar danneskjold

June 1st, 2012
10:01 pm

My sense is that the job pays about what the work is worth, equivalent to a part-time janitor at a start-up dot-com.

Ayn Rant

June 2nd, 2012
7:42 am

The US has far too many political offices and far too many politicians, hundreds of thousands of them in local, county, state, and federal governments. We vote for people we never heard of, to fill offices we don’t give a rat’s butt about. Political responsibility is diffuse and politicians evade accountability.

We’d be much better off with fewer elective positions and more professional civil service positions. Let’s replace all elective positions at the local/county level with a county executive for each county. Let’s reduce the state legislature to an elected council of 12 or fewer members. Let’s stop electing judges, coroners, animal control officers, school boards, etc, so as to focus on executive responsibility and accountability.

Lots of luck in getting politicians to give up their offices!

dabir dalton

June 2nd, 2012
8:07 am

Kyle what part of tax cuts = no income = no raises for Georgia State Legislators do you and your fellow conservative republican defenders of the 1% and enablers of wall street white collar criminals don’t understand?

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

June 2nd, 2012
8:09 am

The amount of corruption is proportional to the amount of power we allow the government to take for itself. If you want to do something about corruption, shrink the government.

@@

June 2nd, 2012
8:55 am

And, of course, having to run for re-election every two years, which means spending a lot of your free time raising money.

Therein lies the biggest problem with politics. Too much time/energy/money is wasted on re-election when serving the interest of their constituents should be their only concern.

Skip

June 2nd, 2012
9:07 am

Where did all the “America, love it or leave it” folks from the Bush years go?

Samantha

June 2nd, 2012
9:40 am

I never heard much love it or leave it talk. What rock did you live under?

Bob Loblaw

June 2nd, 2012
10:26 am

And as soon as they vote a pay raise your editorial board and your editior will join the tea party and the new hybrid Republican/TEA Party/Personhood party created in Columbus and order them destroyed. Naive, Kyle. A nice dinner now and then doesn’t sound like such a big deal now, does it? You want to raise taxes to pay politicians more money. Amazing.

Bob Baldwin

June 2nd, 2012
11:59 am

Assuming an innocent, non-thieving person thought about running for office, with the personal attacks and insulting language used by a vocal minority, just like on all these blogs, you would have to be a glutton for punishment to run for office.

It’s not worth it.

@@

June 2nd, 2012
12:12 pm

On topic?

Merkel Rejects Debt Sharing as Obama Urges End to Crisis Cloud

I have great appreciation for Merkel’s job performance.

The PIIGS need to take their tonic and quit wallowing.

schnirt

killerj

June 2nd, 2012
12:16 pm

The job caters to someone with money who has the time,go figure.

getalife

June 2nd, 2012
12:30 pm

Congrats cons, your party fought against our recovery and are winning.

I know you are so proud of your party.

To be fair, the dems should engage with Syria and Iran, collapse the global economy and fight against our recovery too if they lose.

Fair is fair.

Michael H. Smith

June 2nd, 2012
12:34 pm

One of the suggestions I’ve gotten while writing about ethics reform during the past several months is that we just need to elect more ethical people. If you believe that, you have to recognize the dearth of people willing to do the job at all.

Seeking candidates on quality of character remains the most reliable course of action. No amount of fines or threats of fines will change anyone’s ethics or morals.

Changing ballot-access laws to allow more third-party entrants is one possibility.

This argument or proposal is something of another matter all together and what is at the core of it has a broader scope than merely placing third party candidates on ballots or electing third party candidates because of the particular term Kyle used: Ballot-access.

Some may actually know that Georgians once had direct ballot-access, not only could we to put third party candidates on the ballot, we Georgians could place ballot initiatives and referendums on the ballot as well: Referendums which would become a law when past by the popular vote.

This may strain the systematic ideas held of Representative Republic in its structure, however remember at what level of governance this imposition of a Democracy is occurring: The State.

Most conservatives on this blog understand that State governments were meant to hold far greater powers than those GRANTED to the Federal government.

In fact, any power not specifically – in writing – given to the Federal government belongs to either the State government or the people. Also, most will recall that the constitution guaranteed a republican form of government to the States which didn’t specifically include the people.

Now some agree with the idea of ballot initiative and referendum, others may view it as going too far in the direction of being a Democracy rather than holding fats to the ideas of the Republic. Personally, at the State level ballot initiative and referendum is fine for me. On the Federal level it may be attractive at times but ultimately it would depart too far from the Republic. In fact I wish the 17th amendment would be repealed to give back to the States their representation in the Congress in departing from this pseudo idea of Democracy.

Good luck on getting ballot-access restored to the people of Georgia, Kyle. Though the two parties that be will fight to the death to prevent it, for it would meaning losing power.

td

June 2nd, 2012
12:50 pm

getalife

June 2nd, 2012
12:30 pm

Congrats cons, your party fought against our recovery and are winning.

I know you are so proud of your party.

So are you saying that Romney is going to win the election?

As far as fighting, it is the Republicans are trying get to a recovery. The Dems dumb policies are the ones that are the cause of little to no job growth.

@@

June 2nd, 2012
12:51 pm

Christian Leaders Are Powerhouses on Twitter

Why are some tweets more popular than others?

When a Twitter staff member set out to answer that question 10 months ago, he thought the answer would emerge among posts from N.B.A. players, politicians or actors. Instead, he found a mystery: a set of messages that were ricocheting around Twitter, being forwarded and responded to at a rate that was off the charts.

Traveling on the road to Damascus, take a right onto the Information Highway.

No doubt there will be those among us who find this recent revelation unsettling.

Oh well! Can’t stand in the way of progress now…can they?

td

June 2nd, 2012
1:11 pm

“Changing ballot-access laws to allow more third-party entrants is one possibility.”

Kyle.

As you said in the article that there is hardly anyone running in the primaries. I belong to a local Republican party in a pretty big county and we have between 20 to 50 people show up to monthly meetings. If there was any flavor of a citizens movement for change then a couple hundred people in my county could come together and get it accomplished.

Third party access is not necessary for change. It is the apathy of the people that needs to be changed. Until the people determine that things need to be changed then there will be change.

@@

June 2nd, 2012
1:17 pm

Detroit residents may soon vote on legalizing marijuana

Their economy has been in decline for decades. The pain will go away when they’re all lit up.

Bob Baldwin

June 2nd, 2012
1:23 pm

I commented earlier why I wouldn’t run for office. Anybody else got a reason for not running or are you already in office?

@@

June 2nd, 2012
1:29 pm

Anybody else got a reason for not running or are you already in office?

I prefer to work with intellectually challenged children, not intellectually challenged adults. The pay’s better, but only slightly.

You asked…I answered.

Dusty

June 2nd, 2012
1:33 pm

Well, since there seems to be a dearth of honest to goodness people in the legislator, I have decided to run and set up a new constitution. @@ will be co chair. She will be public relations and I will count votes and small change.. Hillbilly D will be Sec. of State and State fisheries. The rest of you better behave because you might get APPOINTED. Kyle will “cover” us at AJC and declare how wonderful we are every day..

We will be tightwads. A yardsale every week. Mz Merkle will be proud of us. Let’s get started! (Now….Where are the lobbyists?)

@@

June 2nd, 2012
1:56 pm

Dusty:

Don’t ask me to assist in yard sales.

I helped a neighbor and some friends with one. A crew of three women visited three separate times. Each time they nimbly distracted the sellers in order to steal what was being sold for little of nothing. I confronted them on their third visit. Needless to say…

THEY DID NOT return to steal again!!!!!

My skills in diplomacy are sorely lacking.

(ISH)

Dusty

June 2nd, 2012
1:59 pm

Wow @@,

I was going to ask Victor Hill to run the State Police but you already have experience so how ’bout it? We’ll have cute uniforms and personal motorcycles!

MarkV

June 2nd, 2012
2:01 pm

Dusty @1:33 pm

Good for you. If elected, you will serve. I hope you will not want all of us to serve, however. (Dusty @7:10 pm: “We all serve together, with, under, around, up & down!”)

We all serve?
It reminds me of an old story we used to tell as kids. Three guys came to a passport control in a foreign country. The official took all three passports (only in a story) and started asking questions: To the first guy: “So you are a subject of the United Kingdom?” “Indeed I am,” was the proud answer. “And you are a subject of the Republic of France?” “Oui monsieur,” the equally proud answer. “And you, sir, are a subject of the United States of America?” The American’s eyes bulged, his face got red. “A subject? I own a piece of the US!”

Payback time: Are you sure you are an American?

Dusty

June 2nd, 2012
2:32 pm

Mark V

OH yes indeed, I am a subject and a predicate of the USA!! Alleluia!

Now, as new State ChairChum, I would have a job for YOU. Keeper of birdhouses, baroque butterflies and word watcher! Doesn’t pay much but you will have your own personal birdbath! When can you start?

td

June 2nd, 2012
2:57 pm

Bob Baldwin

June 2nd, 2012
1:23 pm

I commented earlier why I wouldn’t run for office. Anybody else got a reason for not running or are you already in office?

I would run for office if my job would allow. It is not that big of a deal to be a Representative in the state legislature. There are probably 20% of the constituents that would even know who you were.

@@

June 2nd, 2012
3:17 pm

Looks like Romney’s gloves coming off has rattled President Kool.

To hear Obama tell it now, the McCain who ran against him in 2008 was an example of a principled Republican who knew how to reach across the aisle. The implication from Obama is that those qualities simply don’t apply to Romney.

“John McCain believed in climate change,” Obama told supporters at a fundraiser in Minneapolis Friday. “John believed in campaign finance reform. He believed in immigration reform. I mean, there were some areas where you saw some overlap. In this election, the Republican Party has moved in a fundamentally different direction.”

But Obama’s flattering memories of McCain conflict with their campaign clashes of 2008. Back then, Obama hammered his rival as “out of touch” with many of the problems facing people in the United States.

Obama used that one on McCain too? He needs new material.

If McCain didn’t realize it then, he oughta realize it by now…the dems will both use and abuse a moderate to their own advantage.

Rafe Hollister- trying to save the Choom Gang

June 2nd, 2012
3:18 pm

Bob Baldwin

I wouldn’t run for office, because I don’t work well with numbskulls. BTW, I know a Bob Baldwin, wondering if you are the one, do the initials BAM mean anything?

Rafe Hollister- trying to save the Choom Gang

June 2nd, 2012
3:20 pm

@@

Trying to make Mitt Romney into Jim Demint, is not going to work out well for Barry Oblamer.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

June 2nd, 2012
3:34 pm

Now that Bill Klinton has endorsed Romney, one wonders, what else does obozo need to know?

getalife

June 2nd, 2012
3:46 pm

If Europe used growth instead of con Germany austerity, our job growth would be better but still crawling out of the gop ditch.

Austerity is to blame and another failed con ideology.

We can count on you cons being wrong all the time.

getalife

June 2nd, 2012
3:51 pm

willard’s goose has no gander.

Is he a space alien from planet kolob?

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

June 2nd, 2012
4:05 pm

Congrats cons, your party fought against our recovery and are winning.
———

Obozo tries to destroy capitalism and–shazam–capitalists stop growing the economy.

The solution is obvious. Extricate the America-hating vermin from Our White House.

Bob Baldwin

June 2nd, 2012
4:07 pm

Rafe Hollister- trying to save the Choom Gang

June 2nd, 2012
3:18 pm

Bob Baldwin

I wouldn’t run for office, because I don’t work well with numbskulls. BTW, I know a Bob Baldwin, wondering if you are the one, do the initials BAM mean anything?

Not sure. Was it military connected or hometown?

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

June 2nd, 2012
4:15 pm

The next time obozo creates a job it’ll be the first time obozo has created a job, just sayin…

MarkV

June 2nd, 2012
4:15 pm

Dusty @2:32 pm

Anytime, but will take it only as a second job.

td

June 2nd, 2012
4:55 pm

Sounds like Getalife is starting to see what is going to happen in November and is trying to find someone to blame. I wonder how much longer it will take for the rest of the dems to see the writing on the wall?

Moderate Line

June 2nd, 2012
4:59 pm

This explains allot.

@@

June 2nd, 2012
5:03 pm

(CNN) – President Obama enjoyed a short stroll Saturday in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago after spending a rare night in his home there.

He and Valerie didn’t wanna visit his old district, Grove Park?

I wonder why? He didn’t wanna stay in touch with his constituents?

schnirt

Dusty

June 2nd, 2012
5:11 pm

MarkV

What? You mean you have something better? And I thought times were bad.

Don’t forget the benefits offered! Your personal birdbath! And healthcare! An aspirin for every ache!

Well, I have to leave. Gonna put our some big yard signs . Isn’t that what politicians do? I heard some guy named Burrel Ellis was doing that.