Sometimes you look at a field of candidates and ask, "Is this it? This is the best we can do?"
It's a lament heard often during the ongoing GOP presidential nominating contest, but it happens at the state and local level, too, from time to time.
The local Democratic committee often can't find a single candidate willing to take the plunge in Republican-leaning York County.
The 73-year-old federal Hatch Act is partly to blame.
Intended to end patronage abuses during the Depression era, the law prohibits federal employees from running in partisan elections.
No problem there.
But the Hatch Act reaches much farther than that.
It places the same restriction on state and local government workers whose jobs are connected to federal dollars.
In an era of tight budgets and federal grants, that would be most state and local government workers.
This means some of our best-qualified people are forced to choose between their livelihoods and the uncertainty of running for office.
Former Springettsbury Township Police Chief David Eshbach found out late in his 2011 campaign for Dover-area District Justice that a $1,500 federal grant to his department put him at odds with the Hatch Act. He took early retirement and cruised to an easy victory.
Kyle King, the chief administrator in the York County District Attorney's Office, on the other hand, chose his job over his campaign this year for the 95th House District seat.
He couldn't believe it when he heard he was in violation of the Hatch Act.
"It's gotten to the point where it's almost if you're not an independently wealthy person, it's so difficult to run for office," King said.
Clearly, the law needs to be changed.
Bills are pending in both the U.S. Senate and House to amend the Hatch Act. Both still would bar federal employees from participating in partisan political activities, but would end the prohibition on state and local government employees.
Even the Office of Special Counsel, which enforces the Hatch Act, supports the changes.
"Fixing this broken law will cost taxpayers nothing and will demonstrate respect for the independence of state and local elections," said Carolyn Lerner, who runs the office.
We urge our delegation to support these bills -- and help clear the way for all of our civic-minded neighbors to serve if they wish.