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Why our best and brightest candidates are not running

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Aug. 5 is primary election day in Michigan, and across all media channels, you can find criticism of who is on the ballot and who isn’t on the ballot. On Stateside today, Jack Lessenberry and Nolan Finley talked about why our best and brightest do not run.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s political analyst. Nolan Finley is editorial page editor at The Detroit News.

“We really aren’t sending the best and brightest to our capitols, whether it’s Lansing or Washington,” Finley said.

He added that when he talks to some of the people running for office, and even those who may ultimately win, there is a great deal of mediocrity among the candidates. Finley says the leadership pool is really shallow, and the promising leaders don’t have enough time to develop with short term limits.

Lessenberry said there are some who are not running for office who are qualified because it is too much of a hassle and costs too much. He added that redistricting deters potential candidates as well.

Lessenberry said he lives in a state senate district that is overwhelmingly Democratic, and there are good Republicans there with good ideas. However, the Republicans never run because they know they could never win in a Democratic district.

“If you live in Holland, Michigan, say, you could be Franklin D. Roosevelt, you could be John F. Kennedy, and you would have no chance being elected as a Democrat,” Lessenberry said.

“You know, people have these grand ideas – 'I want to make a difference, I want to change' – and the reality is so little is getting done today, so little is getting changed because of the dysfunction of our institution,” Finley said.

Read Nolan Finley’s article in The Detroit News here and Jack Lessenberry’s article about female candidates in Michigan here.

*Listen to the full interview above. 

Stateside is produced daily by a dedicated group of producers and production assistants. Listen daily, on-air, at 3 and 8 p.m., or subscribe to the daily podcast wherever you like to listen.
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