Last spring I did a few pieces on treating political campaigns as you would a job interview. Define the job, evaluate candidates' qualifications for that job, then vote. (Some of the candidates were not especially pleased, thinking I was picking on them, even multiple candidates for the same position. Oh well.)
Over the past few months, my group at work interviewed quite a few candidates for various positions. We sometimes pass on people who have have strong skills, whom we like a lot personally, but won't move the department, as it now is, where it needs to go. Context matters, a lot. You cannot pick candidates, whether for a job or political office, in isolation.
I don't think I could give a crisp job description or "requirements" for large legislative bodies, like the US or Mass House or Senate or Town Meeting, while I mostly understand the more focused policy-setting and executive positions (selectmen, school committee, governor). But I do know which issues I care about from the state legislature: a more reasonable distribution of education and other aid (eg, give proper weight to commercial property tax income in aid formulae), adequate investment in and planning of transportation and other infrastructure, increased transparency (such as recent progress with opening the state's checkbook to the public), and fiscal sustainability.
For State Rep in the 24th Middlesex district (Dave Rogers, Jim Gammill, Tomi Olson), it's more a question of what our choice will add to the mix of that body, do their priorities align with mine, and who stands the best chance of actually moving the other 139 Reps in the direction I want the to go given the context?
What is the context or environment of the House? Yes, dominated by Democrats, and yes, controlled by speaker who has too much control, too-thin skin, and does not easily tolerate dissent. We all know that too many previous speakers have been at the business end of a judge's gavel. That is indeed a shame, and embarrassing for all of us. It's part of the reason so many of us (including me) are "unenrolled" in this state.
All candidates have ideas they want to pursue. They may carrry great appeal in the abstract, but in practice - in the context of the House (or any position) - how will they actually move their agendas forward? I doubt any freshman rep will lead much right off the bat. But perhaps they can exert some influence for my own key issues. Would an independent (whether unenrolled, or just playing up independence from their own party to appeal to more voters, as Scott Brown and others do) be effective in the environment of the Massachusetts State House? Would the leadership even listen? Would they get a seat at the table, or watch from the bleachers? Is an "independent voice" effective if no one is willing to listen? Is being part of the any team - the major parties, caucuses, committees - better than no team at all?
That said, I do like independence in many parts of the political world. I'm a fan of Angus King of Maine, I roll my eyes when a politician mentions "the other side of the aisle", and I do appreciate that most local (Selectman, School Committee, Town Meeting, etc) candidates do not put a party affiliation next to their names. Perhaps I like the idea of backing away from the mainstream parties - independence for independence sake. And in some ways, it lets officials focus more on the task at hand, rather than winning battles.
But I also don't want to be under-represented.
Again, hiring for any position needs the context applied. Our leaders must operate in a context, and we have to consider that.