The dance of newcomer and incumbent

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It's no secret that I'm a "newcomer to running for office" in this political race, and that this label lines me up to be one half of a long-running dance that newcomers and incumbents do as a part of political campaigns.

The newcomer says, "I'm here with fresh ideas and a different way of doing things, out with the old and in with the new, vote for me, change you can believe in!" and so on.

The incumbent says, "Why would you want to bring in someone who doesn't have any experience in this position, when you've got me?  I've been doing this for a while, I know how it works, I'm the best bang for your buck."

The reality, of course, is that both perspectives can be right.

It is a good thing for our political and governmental bodies to be changed up, mixed around and refreshed once in a while to ensure that new ideas and different perspectives are introduced to their processes.  And it is also a good thing for our political and governmental bodies to benefit from the wisdom and experience of those who have worked with them over time, and who have important context that informs the way things are done.

In the case of this election for Richmond's Common Council, it's interesting that every single seat on Council is up for a vote.  It means that each candidate will have to show their value, either as someone bringing something new to the table, or someone who has some familiarity, momentum and context that is worth preserving.

As I've talked with members of this community about my own campaign, many have expressed disappointment with the current makeup of Common Council, in part out of concern for the long and entrenched history that some of its members hold with governance in our community.  They're excited about the idea of new faces, and I'm certainly glad that I can offer that possibility.  But I also have to remember that if I am elected, I would instantly become an "incumbent" for any potential future races, and that I would soon be seen by many as just another familiar face on Council.

It seems that we can't say with any certainty, then, whether it's best to be a newcomer or an incumbent, but we know it's important that both perspectives be represented, and that in the end, the voters get to decide based on the merits of a candidate's positions and demonstrated approach to leadership.

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