Stuart Leavenworth

Stuart Leavenworth: FAQ on how and why we endorse for office

Published: Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 6E
Last Modified: Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012 - 9:39 am

Below are some frequently asked questions about our endorsements for candidates and ballot initiatives, and some answers:

What's your process for determining your endorsements?

We invite Madame Molotova to come in and help us with her clairvoyant powers.

No really, what is your process?

We use a combination of research and direct interaction with candidates and proponents and opponents of ballot measures. This includes meetings, attendance at public forums and questionnaires.

Several newspapers no longer publish election endorsements. Why does The Bee?

As I've noted previously, we offer recommendations because we publish an opinion page. It seems inconsistent to publish positions on all kinds of issues and then take a pass on the most crucial question for citizens – which candidates and ballot measure to support

Are there other reasons?

Yes. In our meetings with candidates who are walking door to door, we learn about issues and trends from across our region. Inevitably we adjourn these meetings with tips and leads that prove invaluable in our work.

But I don't like endorsements. I don't like The Bee telling me how to vote.

We are not telling you how to vote. We are offering an opinion. Informed voters sift through information from a variety of sources – the more, the better – before casting a ballot. By offering endorsements, we are offering readers one more source of information that they can use or reject in determining how to vote.

Will you endorse in all races within the Sacramento region?

No. We don't have the capacity to vet all candidates, particularly all those running in special district elections and for some school boards. So we pick and choose. Also, we don't issue endorsements in races we deem not to be competitive.

What happens when you think that neither candidate in a race is worthy of office? Have you ever issued no endorsement in a competitive race?

No, not since I became editorial page editor. I've insisted that the editorial board should never dodge an endorsement. Democracy rarely presents perfect choices. Voting is hard. If we can't muster the will to make a decision, even when faced with hugely imperfect choices, how can we expect voters to do the same?

I see people taking clips of your endorsements into the ballot booth. What do you think about that?

We are so flattered! No, really, we hope that anyone clipping our endorsements is using them as one of many sources for determining their choices. No matter how busy their lives may be, voters need to find the time to conduct independent research on the candidates who would pull the levers of government.

I recall that in the primary, you wrote that a local candidate left the editorial board a jar of homemade habanero dill pickles. Did you sample them?

We did, but to avoid getting in an ethical pickle, we did not sample them until we had already issued our endorsement in that race.

As it turned out, the pickles were searingly hot, and somewhat intriguing. Unfortunately, voters were not similarly enthused by the candidate who canned them.

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