Knight became mayor because he worked harder.

Many lessons can be drawn from the vote last week in Cornelius, but here's one that the winning side may not want to hear.

That mess you just cleaned up was of your own making.

Sure, it was Mayor Neal Knight and his two stooges who fired the city manager and ousted the legal counsel, costing the city at least $150,00 and its reputation as a community on the rebound.

But if former councilor Brad Coffey, former mayor Bill Bash and the others who led the recall against Team 3 are looking for someone to blame, they should tear down the bull's-eye they put over Knight's face and look in the mirror.

Knight didn't become mayor last November in a coup. He didn't buy his way into office.

He became mayor because he and his team worked harder than Bash, Coffey and Co.

In fact, if Bash and Coffey had campaigned half as hard for themselves last year as they did against Knight this year, they'd still be in office.

I don't know why the incumbents didn't fight for their jobs. Maybe they didn't want to dignify Knight's candidacy by engaging him on the campaign trail.

Maybe they thought, after his rocky tenure as mayor in the early '90s, he couldn't win.

Well, he did. And they have no one to blame but themselves.

It's the same reason that Kate Grandusky bounced Ralph Brown from the Forest Grove School District Board.

She ran a better campaign.

Brown, an avid distance runner (and former Cornelius mayor), had far more experience than his challenger, but chose to trot to defeat while Grandusky pounded the pavement and left him in the dust on election day.

The truth is that incumbency, once viewed as an absolute electoral advantage, can quickly become a liability these days if those in office don't make a strong case for staying in office.

That's why the two targets of the Forest Grove School District Board recall will be in real trouble if they and their supporters think they can simply let their records speak for themselves.

There's a lot of anger out there directed at the school board. Some of it is misplaced, but Howell and Tavera-Weller have been chosen to defend the district's actions.

If they run an active campaign to hold onto their jobs, it will provide an opportunity for parents, students and staff to get some valuable insights into why decisions were made.

Such an exercise would be good in a district where administrators seem fearful of open debate and candid discussions.

In their push to recall Howell and Tavera-Weller, organizers have raised valid questions. The election offers a chance to discover some answers. It may not seem fair that two board members have been saddled with this burden, but that's the way direct democracy works.

In Cornelius, Team 3 was unable to convince voters that its actions were in the best interest of the city. Howell and Tavera-Weller have a much stronger case.

But, they won't succeed without raising some money, knocking on doors and letting voters know they still have a positive role to play in getting the district back on track.

It won't be fun. It won't be cheap. But that's okay.

Because, as activist Marian Wright Edelman aptly put it: 'Democracy isn't a spectator sport.'

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