Should Elected Officials Be Required To Resign Before Seeking Another Office?

Recently I learned that the City of Philadelphia Charter requires city elected officials to resign their position if they want to run for another public office. Six years ago a city councilmember attempted to remove the requirement for city elected officials to resign when seeking another public office and city voters defeated eliminating the law.

Now a city councilmember is seeking to expand the law by requiring state and federal officials to resign when they seek another elected office. Last year three state representatives ran and won elected city positions in Philadelphia while serving in the Pennsylvania state legislature.

I am not familiar with any other cities that have a law like Philadelphia does. Without a doubt candidates serving in one public office while running for another have an advantage as far as name recognition, raising money and campaigning while receiving a public pay check. Should that advantage be reduced by requiring current office holders to resign when seeking another public office? Or is such action not necessary?


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William Lim

I think if you are to require an elected official to resign before seeking another office, it would raise the question of why an incumbent should be allowed to remain in office while seeking reelection to the same office. If the objective is to equalize the playing field, incumbents seeking reelection are at a far greater advantage over those seeking election to an office they do not currently hold (even if one of the candidates holds a lower office). If the objective is to eliminate the perception of a career politician perpetually seeking lateral or higher offices either due to ambition, term limits, or both, then I think what you need is an across the board “time out” rule requiring a lame duck to sit out an election cycle before seeking office again in addition to making a non-term limited official resign (and meaningfully, resign a year or two) before seeking higher office. I don’t think either of these will happen without significant constitutional changes at the state and federal levels, especially since local/state laws affecting the election of federal officials may be preempted by federal law.

Tova Churgin Stein

Such action is not neccessay as an attempt to level the playing field. However, if the reason for the law is that candidates for office spend so much of their time and attention on running that their current job gets short-changed they may have a valid point.