Editorial: Refreshingly competitive ballot gives voters actual choices

One thing we can say for sure about Lebanon’s ballot for the Nov. 6 election: It’s loaded with quality local candidates in every race.

It’s a pretty competitive ballot, and we love that. Although it’s not a candidate’s fault that nobody has stepped up to run against him or her – and sometimes it might be an indication of the great job they’re doing, we think it’s gnerally a lot more healthy to have multiple names on the ballot.

A competitive field in an election generally results in a greater diversity of ideas and sometimes those can have far-reaching effects beyond the actual campaign. In fact, we’ve covered candidates who basically have told us they knew they didn’t have a chance, but just wanted to get their ideas into the public arena and an election campaign presented a good opportunity to do so.

We live in a democratic system, and although it can get tiresome to constantly hear that “your vote counts,” that can be very true in ways the average voter might not realize. For one thing, local elections often come down to a few votes – or a tie, as has happened more than once. Your vote can count – very much.

Our philosophy at Lebanon Local in dealing with election coverage is that we try to focus our efforts on presenting readers with as much information as possible on candidates, given our limitations on space, rather than telling you who we think you should vote for.

Typically, we don’t endorse candidates.

That doesn’t mean we don’t have opinions, but in the case of choosing community leaders, we feel it’s better to lay out as much information as we can for voters who are fully capable of making informed decisions without us dictating them.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with newspapers endorsing candidates – it’s a time-honored tradition dating back centuries. But we like to think that our efforts are better spent helping you get to know who’s on the local ballot.

That said, in this case that works to our advantage because they’re pretty much all very qualified to represent you. As City Council candidate Greg Nervino said in the Sept. 25 candidates forum we’ve reported on page 6, “Any one of us would make a good candidate. We’re all caring people up here.”

But if you’re still wondering what to look for, here are a few suggestions:

  • Look for what sets a candidate apart. You’re going to see a lot of similarity in what candidates have to say, perhaps because great minds sometimes really do run in the same direction. It’s what they have to say that’s different that often sets someone apart. What kind of ideas do they have? How varied and applicable is their experience? How involved have they been in actual governmental processes?  Who’s willing to tackle the tough stuff?
  • Ask someone you know who might know more than you do. Did so-and-so serve on such-and-such commission with someone you know? Ask that person how involved the candidate was, how much they actually contributed to the process. Ask them what they think.
  • It’s always a temptation, where there isn’t a lot of information, to just vote simply because you recognize a name or you know so-and-so from such-and-such. We definitely don’t want to insult anyone’s intelligence – we’ve all been there in the booth, where we realize we should have done more research, but that’s why we write these admittedly long stories about election campaigns.

The Circuit Court races are pretty special this year simply because one is for an open seat and the other pits a challenger against an incumbent who was appointed a year ago, and both are competitive. Everyone on the ballot is a worthy candidate.

Court races are a little different from other government elections in that judges don’t have a lot of liberty to change the direction of the institution, unlike, say, City Council members or county commissioners.

But since our local judges handle a wide range of cases, from criminal to civil, experience counts and the candidates’ answers to the questions in our story on the candidates forum on page 8 should provide you some tips regarding such traits as the candidates’ experience in the courtroom, their views on public access to justice, their ability to interpret and apply legal principles to factual situations, communication abilities, knowledge of courtroom procedures, candidates’ priorities, administrative skills, etc.

Suffice to say that it’s time to do some thinking about what really matters to each of us. What do we want for the city? The county? Our courts?

It’s your call now.