With 65 candidates to research, we’ll cover the races in a couple of different ways on the news side. First, we’ll email questionnaires, asking candidates about themselves and where they stand on issues affecting the agency they wish to help govern. For example, we might ask Hockinson school board candidates about online vs. in-person classes, and La Center City Council candidates about what they think about outsourcing the police department. We’ll also ask them to name their top issues.
We’ll follow up with interviews on a number of the races in larger jurisdictions, and check Public Disclosure Commission filings to see which candidates are attracting money and from whom.
All of this is normal journalist stuff, but it’s really, really important. We want to give Camas voters information to help them choose between Geoerl W. Niles, Marilyn Dale-Boerke, Gary Perman and Shawn High for city council, Ward 1, Position 2, for example. By telling people where each stands on, say, fire services consolidation or siting substance abuse rehab centers in a residential zone, voters can choose the candidates that best reflect their views.
Some candidates probably won’t agree to share their ideas with us, and, by extension, the voters. That should tell you a lot about them right there.
The role of opinion
In seven of the highest-profile races, we will offer our editorial opinion to voters. Before we do this, we will invite candidates to meet with our editorial board, which consists of me, Editorial Page Editor Greg Jayne and three of the Campbell family owners of The Columbian, including Publisher Ben Campbell. Since these interviews are conducted “on the record,” a reporter will likely sit in but won’t ask questions.
The board members will spend about an hour questioning the candidates. We generally like to do group interviews, so candidates can engage their opponents. Before we arrive at our endorsements, we spend time discussing what each candidate said during the interview and other things they have said and done during the campaign, including what they share on social media.
For the primary, we will generally endorse two candidates per race, since the top two will move forward to November. Then we’ll give our favorite candidate a solo endorsement before the general election.
Due to COVID-19, I’m not sure yet whether we’ll do the editorial board interviews in person or via an online group chat. Either way, we plan to continue our practice of recording the interviews and posting them online for the general public to view on our elections page, www.columbian.com/elections. That page is already live, by the way, so be sure to check it out when you’re not celebrating graduation, the Fourth of July or enjoying the warm, dry summer weather.
While you are doing those things, we’ll gather the information you need about the races and the candidates, and have it there waiting for you before Election Day.