As a professional society that wishes to select its officers in a dignified way, free from the raucous traditions of secular partisan politics, AAPG entrusts the evaluation of possible nominees for elective office to its Advisory Council (AC) and Executive Committee (EC).
AAPG members can know that all officer candidates listed on the official ballot have been privately vetted -- their strengths and weaknesses, pros and cons, discussed and assessed in comparison with other potential nominees -- in the formal process by which their representatives on the AC recommend, and on the EC, approve, the annual list of official candidates for AAPG office.
Accordingly, during the “campaign year” AAPG voters are routinely presented with only candidates’ experience, qualifications, AAPG service records and short personal essays as to why candidates accepted the nomination for AAPG office.
AAPG’s Bylaws allow any Active member to run for elective office as a petition candidate, in opposition to the two candidates regularly selected by the AC and the EC. For 31 years following the approval of AAPG’s Constitution and Bylaws in 1970, no one sought office as a petition candidate. Since 2001, however, there have been four petition candidates.
With this experience, the AC leadership feels that it is timely to review the process.
This is not written in response to the election result just realized.
Current election rules are perceived to provide a petition candidate with two advantages:
- First, he/she is able to “cherry-pick” -- that is, to appraise his/her already-announced opponents before deciding whether to run against them.
- Second, to bypass the vetting process of the AC and EC.
AAPG members who agree to run for office are making substantial personal sacrifices in time, money and family obligations. Depending on the office, successful candidates have necessarily committed to one to five years of service, which commonly consumes 20 percent to 100 percent of the officers’ annual time, beyond their regular jobs. It is a lot to ask of any AAPG member.
Unsuccessful candidates spend nearly a year in the vain pursuit of a volunteer AAPG office. Losing is no fun. But now consider the situation of two nominees whose official candidacies have been announced, and who learn a month or so afterward that a third candidate, nominated by petition, has entered the contest.
Three important changes have occurred:
- The odds of winning have now changed, from roughly one in two to about one in three.
- Withdrawing from the race, even though it might be entirely rational, is awkward and likely to be perceived negatively.
- The contest has inescapably become more partisan.
Most AAPG leaders do not wish to do away with the right of members to run as petition candidates -- the convention can provide a useful remedy. But most members:
- Want candidates who have broad-based support within the Association.
- Want to be sure that no candidate has an unfair advantage over another.
- Want all AAPG voters to be as fully informed as possible.
- Want candidates who are not playing out personal agendas on an AAPG stage.
So how can we achieve such common-sense goals, while retaining the desirable right of all Active members to seek elective office as a petition candidate?
What kinds of Bylaws amendments and changes to election policy would accomplish these aims?
In the article on this page are suggestions for reforming AAPG’s petition candidacy process. Many emerged during a session at AAPG’s Leadership Conference in Galveston, Texas, chaired by Steve Sonnenberg, titled, “Commonsense Modifications to AAPG’s Election Procedures.”
There may be some overlap among them, and some may be unnecessary or even undesirable. Most would require amending AAPG’s Bylaws. They are reviewed here in the interest of stimulating thoughtful discussion among AAPG members, who are urged to provide timely input to their Advisory Council representatives or officers so as to assist the AC as it develops Bylaws recommendations this fall for the House of Delegates and Executive Committee to consider for submittal to the House next April at the 2007 Annual Convention in Long Beach, Calif.
The 2006-07 Advisory Council will be pondering such issues as it considers AAPG election policy this summer and fall. I invite input from all interested members to contact me at: Peter R. Rose, Chair, Advisory Council, 3405 Glenview Ave., Austin, Texas 78703
Suggestions -- Comments Invited
1. Goal: Broad-Based Support for Petition Candidates.
The number of signatures required to qualify as a petition candidate should be more than the 50 now specified, and at least 50 percent should come from several other Sections or Regions.
2. Goal: No Perceived Advantage for Petition Candidates Over Official Candidates.
In order to run as a Petition Candidate, a member must have:
- Applied to the Advisory Council (AC) to be nominated for a specific office.
- Inquired of and been informed by the president that he/she had not been officially nominated.
- Obtained the necessary petition signatures during a 30-day period following the close of official nominations, during which the names of all official nominees are kept strictly confidential.
3. Goal: AAPG Voters Should Be Well-Informed About Possible Candidates.
The term “Petition Candidate” will appear in all official AAPG election materials referring to such a candidate, including ballots.
4. Goal: Candidates Should Not Have Prevailing Personal or Partisan Agendas.
Petition candidates must gather all endorsing signatures personally. In order to prevent the appearance of a conflict of interest or other impropriety in the Executive Committee or Advisory Council, EC and AC members may not themselves run as petition candidates against those they have participated in nominating, nor may they solicit signatures for or publicly support a petition candidate running against EC-approved candidates they have participated in nominating.
-- PETER R. ROSE