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Sensible to declare for office early

Think it’s too early to throw your hat into the ring as a candidate for political office next year? Better think again. While it may seem a bit premature, a number of candidates for the 2014 election season already are launching their campaigns.

We first took note of this developing trend a few months ago — almost a year before the 2014 March primary. It seemed to start with candidates for statewide offices, but now we’re seeing the same thing happen at the county level.

Some of the men and women who have publicly announced their intentions to run for office in the 2014 elections say an early start is necessary to help them challenge incumbents who are already known by voters.

“When you’re running against an incumbent, you can’t start too early,” said attorney Hank Paine, a Republican who recently held a gathering outside the Courthouse on the Square to announce his candidacy for district attorney.

“The other person running has been doing so since last summer,” Paine said. “I’m late to the game. I’m trying to get my name out there and trying to get people to look at the issues.”

Paine told us he has received a lot of positive reaction from people since his intentions came to light, along with commitments from some to help with his campaign.

The opponent to whom Paine referred is fellow Republican Karen Alexander, who announced last July that she intended to challenge the sitting district attorney. She said that as a voter she likes to know a candidate beyond what the person says in debates, newspaper interviews or the days leading up to the election.

Denton County District Attorney Paul Johnson said he felt that Paine and Alexander’s announcements were early, recalling that when he ran for the seat, he announced around November and the official filing period, closer to the election cycle.

“Then again, I had the advantage that I had been involved with the party,” he said.

Any candidate or resident interested in pursuing political office has to file a campaign treasurer form with the Denton County Elections Office before they can spend any money campaigning.

The filing period for the March primary election is Nov. 9 to Dec. 9.

Phyllis Wolper, Denton County Democratic Party leader, said that while there are some rumblings from possible candidates, the only Democrat who has made an announcement this early is Mary Brown, who again will challenge Myra Crownover for the District 63 seat in the state House.

Announcing early as a candidate makes perfect sense to us — why not give yourself as much time as possible to get your message across to voters? It never hurts to put a little extra pressure on your opponent(s).

Earlier announcements might also engage residents a bit more in the voting process. With less than 5 percent voter turnout for city and school elections and around 36 percent voter turnout for county, state and national elections, the need to engage more voters in the process is evident.

The trend toward earlier candidate announcements might have another benefit, as well. Dianne Edmondson, chairwoman of the Denton County Republican Party, said she is encouraged when candidates who announce early also are making a greater effort to attend party-related meetings and events and interact with party advocates.

“It makes them think you are interested in promoting the party and not just your election,” she said.

While it might be possible for a candidate to declare too early and confuse voters, we believe the benefits of an early announcement far outweigh any liabilities.

If a candidate has something worthwhile to say, voters won’t forget the message.