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What If You Won An Election And Decided Not To Serve?

Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012

Why run for office if you don’t plan to serve?

That is the question I asked when I read about a journalist who launched a write-in campaign for school board -- and won. When South Jersey Times online editor Jim Cook, Jr. “half-jokingly” asked his friends through Facebook to write him in for a position on the local school board, he said it was because he found out that only one candidate had filed. He used Facebook and Twitter in a 24-hour period before the election, and only after winning did he realize that he would have to resign his newspaper job in order to serve on the school board.

I have read and re-read this story and I’m still baffled. How could he not understand that he would have a conflict of interest if he took office? Did he think running for office was a “lark” that would have no consequences for the voters or the other candidates? And how could he be so glib in his response to the voters: “I hope I haven’t let you down, and I’m sorry I cannot accept this position. I can, however, throw a victory party. And you’re all invited.”

It is even more distressing to hear his rationale. “I wish I could (take the position), but I have to take the ethical route here and make the best decision for my career and the South Jersey Times – a job and company too close to my heart to put in jeopardy.” What about what is best for the voters?

The story ran on Jim, a blog about media, so most of the comments are from reporters and editors. I want to know what you think. Did he do anything unethical in running for school board? In resigning just after winning? Post your comments here.

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