Is voter turnout an end in itself? History tells us otherwise.
Personally, I’d rather have 20 percent of the citizens casting educated votes than 80 percent of them picking candidates on the basis of Anglo-Saxon names, misleading slogans or photogenic looks.
Uneducated ballots can be dangerous. Ignorant voters, for example, once used to elect Klansmen to state legislatures. In Pierce County in 2008, voters elected Michael Hecht to the Superior Court; he was soon convicted of patronizing a prostitute and felony harassment, and kicked off the bench.
The same year, voters elected a veritable loon as assessor-treasurer. Dale Washam has been busy ever since wrecking his office and the county treasury.
We don’t like to see train wrecks in government. That’s one of the reasons The News Tribune’s editorial board makes endorsements and recommendations in local and state elections.
The five of us – Publisher David Zeeck, Executive Editor Karen Peterson, Managing Editor Dale Phelps, editorial writer Cheryl Tucker and myself – have been closely following and covering the South Sound and Washington state for more than 100 years, collectively.
We’re a long way from infallible, but we’ve been around the block. We know many of the major candidates personally and have interviewed most of the others. We can generally spot a disaster in the making.
We’ve just begun printing our endorsements for the Aug. 7 primary. On Friday we endorsed Republican Kim Wyman and Democrat Jim Kastama for secretary of state. On Sunday, we endorsed Steve Gonzalez, John Ladenburg and Susan Owens for the three contested Washington Supreme Court seats. Today we endorse Tim Farrell and Billie O’Brien in the primary contest for assessor-treasurer.
Why do we pick two candidates in some races?
Although Washington’s primary is now officially a nonpartisan affair, many Democrats and Republicans still vote on the basis of political affiliation. We try to identify the best candidate from each party.
We do not endorse unaffiliated candidates, candidates who’ve invented their own parties, candidates from microscopic parties or candidates who put their names on the ballot but don’t actively campaign.
We don’t have time to interview them all, and they don’t have a snowball’s chance in any event. If a “minor” party candidate were to demonstrate a serious ability to attract votes, as some Libertarians have in the past, we would definitely take a close look at him or her. Unfortunately, Washington’s new primary has not been kind to the state’s smaller parties.
In some primaries, we may endorse only a single candidate if we feel he or she is far better qualified than anyone else in the field.
Lots of other outfits endorse or rate candidates: labor unions, party organizations, business associations, good government groups, political advocacy groups (e.g., the NRA and NARAL), officeholders.
We’re one voice among many. Serious voters will do homework on candidates. Our endorsements are not a bad place to start.