In the past, I worked on Capitol Hill for a fine and respected Midwest senior Democratic United States senator. I left when I married, moved to Chicago and started a family.

Since leaving D.C., I’ve seen a former First Lady ride on the coat tails of her husband president and move into my original home state of New York for the sole reason to win a U.S. Senate seat. She was elected to a position from which dedicated public servants had waited years for the long-term senator to retire, in the hopes of replacing him.

Two years ago, a similar event happened in the U.S. 3rd Congressional district in Illinois. A political science professor moved to the district from out of state for the sole reason to take over his father’s congressional office.

The citizens of the 3rd District voted in a man not on the coat tails of his father, but I believe, in the coat tails of his father. Again, dedicated public servants who had loyally waited years for a devoted U.S. congressman to retire, in the hopes of replacing him, were duped.

Instead, this congressman performed that which is left to kings. He and the leaders of the Democratic Party announced his son as the Democratic candidate. They did not give the voters of the district the benefit of their intelligence, that they could elect a replacement to continue his fine work. I do believe that former Congressman William Lipinski was a fine and dedicated representative.

What I find repugnant is his and the Democratic Party’s lack of faith in the intelligence of the voters to find a suitable congressional replacement. Without a doubt, he could have announced his retirement earlier and given all candidates the opportunity to run in an open election and voters the chance to vote for fresh candidates. Voters were not given this chance.

You have this opportunity now. Use it. This is not a family-run business where positions can be inherited. This is a democracy where all public servants should be given the opportunity to serve. It is not enough to settle for the status quo.

I learned a lot during my seven years on Capitol Hill. This is Democracy’s greatest opportunity; it is also Democracy’s greatest challenge: To find a candidate with character and wisdom, experience and humor, values and determination. To find a candidate who is strong enough to give you the truth and look you in the eye when doing so.

To find a candidate who understands the importance of crossing party lines for the common good. To find a candidate who realizes that the journey in getting to this ultimate destination of public service is that which builds the character and all other attributes.

Don’t let the leadership of a political party appoint someone for you. Find this candidate yourself. Cross party lines if you need. Then cast your vote.

Barbara Legan