Dear Islanders,

People bash party politics. And I admit, party politics can be awful. But let’s understand why.

We should vote for who is best—not best connected

The biggest problem I see is that people don’t vote for the best candidate. They vote for who their party presents as best. On the local level (which matters most to our daily lives) the national political scene means very little.

The changes you see on Grand Island (local laws, new infrastructure, community projects, court outcomes) are impacted by the elected officials. They’re the ones who represent the best interest of our residents and our community. The elected officials have a say in the issues, projects, and recommendations that affect our town.

Yet, the distant associations we have with people in Washington D.C. dictates far too often who we vote for and why. So how does that play out in Grand Island?

The party machine is powerful

There are more Republicans and Conservative Party members than there are Democrats on Grand Island. I’ve noticed that Republican Islanders tend to distrust their Democratic neighbors, and vice versa. But a political label doesn’t define someone. We live on the same Island; we go to the same restaurants, stores and churches; our kids play on the same playgrounds and attend the same schools. This suspicion and dislike makes no sense.

But elections end up being a numbers game, because most people instinctively vote for those associated with their national party. Republicans usually win quite easily without little resistance, regardless of qualifications.

The situation is worsened by the the statewide “Independence Party.” That party simply does whatever the Republican Party asks them to do. Thus, people who see themselves as “independent” end up voting for people who are really just handpicked by the local Republicans.

The party machine has failed us locally

As a result of people’s over-reliance on national affiliations, local parties often get away with all sorts of shenanigans. On Grand Island we had years and years of little to no transparency. Getting elected or getting a job was all about who you knew. I get it: that's how a lot of small towns work. But it doesn't make it right.

I’m fighting to tear down the machine

I hope we all have the courage to vote for who's best and not just who's in our party. Do you know what else helps tear down the party machine? Primaries. But be careful! Check before you pull that lever!

A candidate can steal another party’s endorsement by getting on the primary ballot. All he or she needs to do is collect some signatures from members of the other party. This can be a good thing, but it can also confuse voters.

Many of the candidates this year don’t fit the mold. They don’t necessarily affiliate with the parties they are endorsed by. Some parties didn’t endorse the candidates you might expect. But either way, that’s not as important as who the candidate is. Be sure you know each candidate's personal beliefs and what they stand for.

Choose wisely

Make no mistake, the party machine is very powerful. So this is what I ask. On Tuesday, whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, vote for who is best. Don’t vote for who they want you to. Do your research. Compare. Ask questions. Choose the most qualified candidate.

Put national politics aside. Forget about who you know or do not know. Let's focus on Grand Island — right here, right now.

See you all at the voting booths on Tuesday, September 12.

Highest regards,

Nate McMurray