The irony of term limits [Letter]

Letter writer Mark Brown asks "What's to fear from term limits?" (Jan. 7). The answer is: Plenty.

In the late 1980s, "term limits" were sold to Ohio voters as a way to remove career politicians and their cronies. Instead, it transferred power to party bosses and their cronies, who used term limits to their benefit.

So instead of "John Doe" leaving the state house when he was about to be term-limited out, he swapped his seat with state Sen. Jane Roe, who was appointed to Mr. Doe's former seat. Where is the term-limit benefit in that?

Statewide officeholders who were coming to the end of their two-term limits simply ran for another statewide office. The state treasurer ran for the attorney general's office, the attorney general ran for state auditor, and so on. This kept their campaign funds and staffs intact while allowing them to run on the clout of their name recognition. Where is the benefit there?

The worst byproduct of limiting the time a person could hold office in the legislature was how it transferred the real power from elected officials to non-elected staff members and their cronies. Because these staff members weren't subject to election, there was no real way to remove them or their influence on legislators or to stop them from shaping state policy.

The staffers' power comes from knowing other staff members who work for other term-limited officials and end up doing business with each other in the back office. As a result, it's the staffers who hold the real power, while the legislators merely cast votes and make more money than their bosses.

None of this benefits the people. The simple fact is we already have term limits; they are called "elections." Elections work when the people understand the facts and vote not for the best ideologue but for the most qualified candidate.

Stuart Haley, Baltimore

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