Robert Ehlert: Up next: Election endorsements and a wealth of data

rehlert@idahostatesman.comMarch 28, 2014 

Robert Ehlert

IDAHO STATESMAN

In a Wednesday column I expressed concern about the overabundance and influence of political ratings and endorsements from outside political organizations, which, I am afraid, candidates invest way too much time establishing.

I expressed a clear preference that they spend that time courting their constituents and pledging actions to us rather than bank-rolled influencers we too readily accept these days.

Lots of you commented and called, agreeing that we should think for ourselves and not be swayed by these outsiders. I even got an invitation to speak.

Some of you asked a fair question: Will the Idaho Statesman be joining those who, as I phrased it, "nanny-hover all over our elections." In other words, will we be endorsing candidates in the upcoming May 20 primary?

The short answer is yes.

If that seems hypocritical, feel free to include our endorsements in the "junk drawer" I described, but only after you allow me to make some distinctions.

The Statesman is not going to do ratings or endorsements like the National Rifle Association, Common Cause, Club for Growth, etc. Our editorial board will make a few endorsements in the competitive statewide primary races, and at the federal level. We might weigh in on some state legislative and county races.

Since we are the Opinions page, it is our job, and it is a fair expectation of our audience. The differences between us and the outsiders are numerous:

• We are not handing out campaign money.

• There is no quid-pro-quo, an endorsement for consideration (or passage) of past or upcoming legislation.

• We are engaged with you in the research of the candidates and we are not attempting to lead you to a conclusion (see "junk drawer").

• We are going to be here when the primary and the Nov. 4 general elections are over to answer for our choices and continue to scrutinize the candidates who prevail.

Previous Statesman editorial boards have made dozens, even hundreds, of endorsements in these races. If we make more than a dozen I will be surprised, and that will happen only if we feel we have critical insight that will help you make your decision.

We see ourselves more as a multimedia information kiosk in this election era than as the traditional influence brokers some might try to cast us as.

If you wander into the election dimension of the Internet, you can quickly discern there is no shortage of opinions. Ours should be distinguished because they are vetted.

If we devote the time to do hundreds of 30-minute endorsement interviews with candidates we met only a minute earlier, we have to consider whether that is the best use of our time and platform - and to the exclusion of what other mission.

So, there will be a few endorsements in key competitive races for which we have done our homework.

In addition, the Statesman will again offer an online Voter's Guide where every candidate will have an opportunity to upload information on their views on the issues. This will be supplemented with traditional print coverage - such as our ongoing Where The Candidates Stand series in Sunday Insight.

Not pleased with the lack of discussion on Medicaid expansion during the Legislature, we asked the four Republican candidates for governor to weigh in. You'll find their responses Sunday. On April 6 the topic is prison reform. Access the ongoing series at IdahoStatesman.com/opinion. If we can arrange it, we might parlay our limited candidate interviews into online forums.

Let us know what you think about our plans.

Robert Ehlert is the Statesman's editorial page editor. Contact him at 377-6437, or on Twitter @IDS_HelloIdaho.

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