Why we recommend -- and do you want to help?

"Who gave you the right to tell us how to vote? Just give us the news and we'll decide how to vote for ourselves."

-- Complaint from some Herald readers

The question above shows up once or twice in every campaign season.

Today, we will attempt again to answer it.

We've done it before.

But this time, we're going to add something for our readers. Something we think you'll like.

But first, why do we do it?

The best answer is that as a group, our seven editorial board members have more exposure to more candidates. If your mom's running, of course you know her better than us, but we probably know who is running against her better than you do.

Our judgments are a consensus of the board. That doesn't mean unanimous. When the logic of one side is obvious, the others accept it .

A former Herald publisher, Kelso Gillenwater, said 25 years ago that, "We want our editorial pages to be neither left nor right, Republican nor Democratic, but pragmatic. We want what seems best, in our judgment, for the community."

It's a tenet that continues to guide us, in every race and in every editorial.

Sometimes we err, of course.

Occasionally we'll go against someone we've recommended for years because of changes in them, in circumstances or our own understanding.

But to employ a deliberate double negative, it's not never party politics.

In the state Legislature, for example, we prefer that the community have a voice in both caucuses. With the death of Democrat Bill Grant a few years ago, that possibility grew much more remote in this Republican-dominated part of the state.

Another reason we feel qualified to recommend candidates is that we invite them to come in and talk with us. Frequently, the Herald board room will be where opposing candidates meet each other for the first time.

We hear what they think of the issues, we ask our questions and after they have left we decide who we think made the better case.

Again, we are never under the delusion that we always get it right. Our decisions on who to recommend are almost never unanimous.

There's another reason we weigh in on elections. We think it would be unfair to you, our readers, if we expressed our views on everything else but ducked politics.

Frankly, it would be easier if we did.

We're never surprised, although we are disappointed, to be told this is a Republican community and so we should never recommend Democrats for anything.

Our duty, as we see it, is to recommend the candidates we believe are best qualified to serve the community. That can't happen if we follow a strict party line.

Finally, we describe our election editorials as recommendations, rather than endorsements. The reason is simple -- the choices were suggesting are just that, our recommendations.

Our hope is that you'll find them useful in making up your mind on who to support.

Now for the promised "added something" for you, our readers.

We invite you to send us questions you'd like asked at our editorial board meetings with the candidates. Email is best, at forum@tricityherald.com. You can also write to 333 West Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA, 99336.

Send questions for a particular race or every race.

There's no limit to how many you may submit. You don't need to sign them, but do if you want to. We'll ask as many as we can in the time allotted.

Campaign managers: Let's leave this one for the ordinary voters, please.

So that's it: Why we do it and an invitation to participate. If you don't have email, drop us a letter.

We'd like to hear from you.