Lemley v. Thomas: One is a clear choice for Richland City Council | Editorial

Without question, Richland voters should return incumbent Phillip Lemley to his city council post.

He is cooperative, considerate of others and untiring in his service to the city. Lemley has served for 10 years on the city council, and his experience is a huge advantage in this race.

Lemley’s volunteer work is so extensive that even when printed in the smallest of type it fills two pages. His participation on boards and commissions goes beyond the Tri-City community, reaching to the state level.

And despite all his civic commitments, he appears to have energy to spare. Recommending he keep his seat on the Richland City Council is an easy call.

His opponent is Lisa Rector Thomas, a registered nurse who has never run for office before.

Her campaign took an unexpected turn in recent weeks when a court document connected her to Benton County Sheriff Jerry Hatcher’s divorce. The sheriff was initially charged with felony witness tampering and fourth-degree assault, but those charges have since been dismissed while the investigation continues.

While the ramifications of that situation continue to unfold, recent events were not part of our decision.

Thomas made this choice for us when she declined last month to meet with the editorial board.

We would have liked to have talked with Thomas and given her a chance to explain her reasons for running and what she wants to do for voters, but we cannot recommend someone who refuses to meet with us.

She hasn’t attended the League of Women Voters’ forums either, so we gleaned what we could about her from her social media posts.

In an email to us, she simply wrote, “Let the record show that I cannot participate since this newspaper has censured me and taken away my right to free speech.”

Thomas was barred a couple years ago from commenting on the Herald’s Facebook page because her posts repeatedly crossed the line of propriety.

She has said on her Facebook page that the Herald silenced her for her conservative viewpoints.

Not true.

The Tri-City Herald welcomes all points of view, both on our Facebook page and in our Letters to the Editor. However, people can’t say just anything they want — particularly if those statements are hateful and offensive.

We have standards of civility. If people can’t meet them, then their letters and comments are removed. If someone’s comments are a repeated problem, then that person is not allowed to post remarks.

To be fair, the same criteria used to block Thomas’ comments is used to remove unacceptable comments made about her.

Thomas has a tendency to get argumentative on social media when people disagree with her, and we wonder if she could be an effective member of the Richland City Council.

Elected officials must be able to listen to people who don’t think just like they do.

She has her supporters who appreciate her conservative fervor and her convictions on many issues. But overall, we have serious doubts about how Thomas could get along with city staff and how she would listen and relate to all Richland citizens.

There is a big difference between voicing concerns, asking questions and suggesting alternative ideas, and being divisive and isolating on a seven-member board.

If elected, we fear Thomas would be a source of conflict.

Lemley already has proven he can work with a variety of people. We are pleased he decided to run for office after all.

The Tri-City Herald recommends Phillip Lemley for Richland City Council.


Behind Our Election Recommendations

Who decides the recommendations?

Members of The Tri-City Herald editorial board interview political candidates, as well as advocates and opponents of ballot measures. The editorial board is comprised of experienced opinion journalists and community members, and is separate from The Herald’s newsroom. Conversations are on the record.

What does the recommendation process entail?

Whenever possible, The Herald editorial board meets with opposing candidates at the same time. The questions are largely focused on a candidate’s qualifications and goals, and the hour-long session resembles a conversation more than a scripted interview. The editorial board then discuss the candidates in each race and decides who to recommend. In the case of ballot measures, we strive to have representatives from both sides of the issue in the room at the same time so we can get past the political rhetoric and obtain firm answers. Board members seek to reach a consensus on our recommendations, but not every decision is unanimous.

Is the editorial board partisan?

No. In making recommendations, members of the editorial board consider which candidates are well prepared to represent their constituents — not whether they agree with us or belong to a particular political party. We evaluate candidates’ relevant experience, their readiness for office, their depth of knowledge of key issues, their understanding of public policy and their ability to work with the current board . We’re seeking candidates who are thoughtful and who offer more than just party-line talking points. The editorial board will endorse both Republicans and Democrats.

Why are the editorials unsigned?

Our election recommendations reflect the collective views of The Herald’s editorial board — not just the opinion of one writer. Board members all discuss and contribute ideas to each editorial.

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