Herald's election advice aims to help voters decide

September 30, 2012 

Just as sure as the leaves are beginning to fall, September brought a constant barrage of campaign signs, debates and sensational political advertising.

It's tiresome at times, but we must remember it all serves a purpose during campaign season. We need to know who is running for office. We need to learn about the candidates' character, which sometimes plays out in the tone of their advertising. We need to see their commitment to meeting the citizenry and listening to their concerns.

Most of all, we need to make informed choices when we cast our ballots. And to that end, we try to help. Each year, the Tri-City Herald's editorial board makes recommendations in political contests to give readers our opinion about who would best serve our community, state and country.

That's what we do here at the editorial page, after all. We give you our opinion. Sometimes you agree and sometimes you disagree. And you're quick and loud to tell us when you think we've gotten it wrong. It's no different with candidate recommendations.

We do our best to inform ourselves about the candidates and come to a consensus opinion on who we believe is best suited for the job. Or, in some cases, we recommend voting in favor or against bonds or levies or statewide initiatives.

The key advantage we have over most folks is that we get to sit down and interview many of the people running for office or representatives of the groups supporting or opposing an issue.

Trust us, you can learn a lot in an hour with a captive audience. An off-the-cuff response to a probing question can usually reveal more than the crafted messages or honed images produced by professional advertising agencies.

Having the point person or candidate face our questions is a whole different matter. No amount of polish or spin can hide a candidate's true knowledge about important topics when they are in the hot seat in the editorial board room.

We don't let well-informed aides or campaign managers sit at the table or contribute to the discussion. It's all on the person who will ultimately hold the job representing us all.

Many people have an opinion that a newspaper is either liberal or conservative. In the newsroom, it is neither. The facts are presented, and readers are entitled to form their own opinions. And, this will surprise some of you, we're sure, but the editorial board is not predisposed to one partisan view or the other.

We're a diverse group of people with varied backgrounds. By reading some of our bios, you might make a guess at our individual politics. But in many cases, you'd be wrong.

The recommendations we give you are a consensus of our board. We may not all agree on every one, but the majority rules and the others concede to reason.

In many of our recommendations, the decisions are easy simply because some candidates haven't prepared themselves for the job.

We love that people are willing to run for public office and make the sacrifices that come along with it. But throwing your hat in the ring without ever having picked up a county budget or attended a city council meeting or done any type of homework won't get you far in the boardroom.

We know you have your opinions. We have ours. They may not be the same.

And that is just fine.

But if we can help some folks with information we've gathered during the process, then our recommendations serve a purpose, whether you agree with them or not.

We go with the recommendation we believe best serves interest of the community, and take our role as a provider of information and insight seriously, making each decision on the merits of the candidate or issue.

We'll be looking forward to your letters and comments in the weeks ahead as the recommendations appear on this page.

Tell us what you think.

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