Competition in Elections is Critical

March 2022

by Dan Brooks, Director of Business Advocacy

“The state of American businesses is competitive,” declared Suzanne Clark, U.S. Chamber President and CEO, during her 2022 State of American Business address. She went on to discuss competition in the marketplace, competition for talent, and competition around the world before addressing the competition of ideas in politics.   

“Our democracy is strongest when candidates and elected officials are focused on winning people over to their ideas—and on the merits of those ideas—not merely relying on the support of those who already agree with them. Politicians should compete for public support with their platforms, persuading more voters and then building broader coalitions to turn those good ideas into good policy.” 

-Suzanne Clark, President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce 

State of American Business, 2022 

We are all better off when competition breeds excellence, innovation, and ultimately progress. In some elections, however, competition has been absent. Take for instance the recent mayor’s race that went uncontested. While I’m glad we have Bill Cole serving another four-year term as mayor, I was disappointed that not one Billings voter had an opportunity to register their choice.  

During the 2020 legislative election, 45 races went uncontested in the general election, meaning there was no Democrat running against a Republican or vice versa. With 125 seats up for grabs each election cycle, one-third of legislative races were determined after the primaries (if there was one) without any general election ballots cast. Races were over before they started. 

The pragmatic side of me understands how difficult it would be for a Republican to win in the heart of Bozeman, or a Democrat to win in eastern Montana. Regardless, it’s a disservice to voters when they have no choice. And a lack of healthy competition in elections leads to candidacies and politicians less inclined to persuade and build broad coalitions of support.    

So where do we find folks willing to run for office? Our business community is a good place to look. Business owners have a good understanding of policy impacts, are connected to their community, and tend to be problem solvers. That’s why the Billings Chamber hosts a Candidate School every year, inviting our members to attend and learn more about running for office. Whether seriously considering a candidacy or curious what campaigning looks like, the chamber provides information and resources to get our business leaders engaged and hopefully elected. 

Unfortunately, for those just hearing about Candidate School, this year’s event has come and gone. But it might not be too late to file for office—the deadline is March 14th. If you’ve still got time, feel free to reach out to the Billings Chamber of Commerce for additional information and resources.  

Though this year's Candidate School has come and gone, the deadline to file for office is March 14. 

Much like healthy economic competition, Montana’s voters will be better served by healthy competition in the marketplace of political ideas and candidates. I hope that’s exactly what we see this November. 

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