Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Sept. 30, 2020

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Jayne: Endorsements shed some light

By , Columbian Opinion Editor

To some extent, it is akin to having somebody tell you whether they like kale more than broccoli or whether they have Nickelback on their playlist instead of Radiohead.

We all have our preferences and are capable of making our own decisions. And if somebody would rather listen to “Rockstar” than “Paranoid Android,” well, we are reluctant to point out their poor taste in music.

The same thinking applies when choosing between political candidates, which is at the forefront of our minds with an election approaching (Election Day, by the way, is Nov. 5). With candidates for city councils and school boards (and one county council race) dotting the ballot, voters are welcome to make their own choices and vote accordingly.

Which brings up the issue of endorsements for one candidate or another. For the purposes of this discussion, we are referring to two different kinds of endorsements. One comes from The Columbian’s Editorial Board; we have been publishing our recommendations for the upcoming races over the past couple weeks, weighing in on various local races with the goal of providing information. Readers are welcome to embrace our opinions or reject them, but we hope the editorials that accompany the recommendations provide a little clarity.

That can be particularly helpful for the races on this year’s ballot. When a newspaper weighs in on the presidential race, it is unlikely to sway voters. But when it comes to a lower-profile school board race, we hope it is helpful to hear from editorial board members who have met with the candidates and examined their credentials. We also post videos of the interviews online to provide additional insight.

In choosing between candidates, we might or might not select who you believe is the best one; but we promise that the choice is well-informed and that some thought has gone into it. Nearly all of this year’s races are nonpartisan, but in the partisan races of even-year elections we typically end up having a fairly even split between Republicans and Democrats. And when it comes to the races or the ballot measures, our goal is not to predict who or what will win, but to express why we believe a particular choice is better for the community.

In the strange- bedfellow-making world of elections, there also is another kind of endorsement. When the editorial board meets with candidates, we make it a point to ask whether they have received any endorsements they would like to share; candidates also typically list these on their campaign websites. These might come from elected officials or community leaders or labor unions or political groups, and they might or might not matter to you.

But this is where the kale-broccoli comparison comes in. Because while somebody else’s thoughts about food have no impact on our personal tastes, the thoughts of those who are involved in the community should carry some weight.

Think about it. Sometimes, the editorial board meets with candidates who essentially say: “Endorsements? You’ve got to be kidding. I’m a political novice; nobody knows me.” Which is exactly the point. While some voters like to romanticize the notion of a genuine grassroots campaign from a political upstart or a reality TV star, they should view the inability to garner endorsements as a warning sign.

If a candidate has not been involved in the community or has not been building friendships and coalitions or has not been able to sell their vision to community leaders, they probably will not be an effective member of the school board or the city council. But if a candidate can garner support from a leader you respect or typically agree with, then you probably will like that candidate. On the other hand, if a candidate has accepted an endorsement from the Society of Puppy Kickers, you might want to steer clear of them.

While it is human nature for voters to think of themselves as independent and unswayable, the truth is that endorsements are the currency of the election system. Without them, candidates might find themselves high and dry.