Ross: Honest representatives get elected when voters want honesty

Jan 9, 2023, 7:38 AM | Updated: 11:37 am

Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., waits for the start of a session in the House chamber as the House meets for the fourth day to elect a speaker and convene the 118th Congress in Washington, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

We now have a Congress with a duly sworn-in House of Representatives, but it includes one admitted resume fabricator, Republican Representative George Santos of New York.

Our own state legislature includes a Democratic representative – Clyde Shavers – who’s been accused by his own father of making up details of his life.

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And all this has prompted former state Representative Chad Magendanz, a Republican, to call on the Secretary of State to do something.

Magendanz has an impressive resume himself –including serving as an officer on a Navy sub. And in 2016, when he was in the legislature, he joined the Republican caucus in demanding the resignation of a fellow Republican, Graham Hunt, who had lied about serving in the Marines and about being wounded in combat. Hunt finally did resign.

Rep. Magendanz is worried too many voters choose candidates thinking the candidate statements in the voters’ pamphlet are fact-checked when they are actually written by the candidates themselves and printed verbatim by the Secretary of State’s office — spelling mistakes and all.

So Representative Magendanz has called on the Secretary of State to sponsor a bill to independently verify all candidate statements before they’re published in the state pamphlet.

This would include criminal background checks and any claims of professional experience and education.

At first, it sounds like a great idea, but then you consider the level of mistrust in government — and I’m worried that putting a state agency in charge of vetting political candidates would be seen as big government trying to protect itself from outsiders who might rock the boat.

The Municipal League of King County used to do candidate evaluations — only to find itself accused of deliberately disqualifying anyone unorthodox. They finally paused those evaluations after 2017.

I think that a pretty good deterrent to lying is doing what Representative Magendanz did when he was in the legislature — put pressure on the offender until he does the right thing and resigns.

Because this is the central challenge of democracy. There is no qualifying exam for candidates beyond the ballot box and the oath of office.

And that’s on purpose, it puts all of the power of choosing who governs in the hands of the voters. That’s the whole idea.

So that means that when voters want competent, honest representation, they will check to ensure they are voting for competent honest candidates. When enough voters don’t care who they get – they will get incompetent liars.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Ross: Honest representatives get elected when voters want honesty