The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

Competitive ballot gives voters actual choices


October 24, 2018

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

It looks pretty competitive and we love that. Although it’s not a candidate’s fault when nobody else steps up to run – and sometimes it might be an indication of the great job an elected official is doing, we think it’s generally a lot more healthy to have multiple names on the ballot.

This year we have another healthy field of seven candidates for the four open seats on City Council. And we have two candidates in the “finals” for each of the two open Circuit Court judge seats and three for the open County Commission seat. More on those in a moment.

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.

Typically, we don’t endorse candidates.

Our philosophy at The New Era in dealing with election coverage is that we try to focus on presenting readers with as much information as possible on candidates, given our limitations on space, rather than telling you who we think the best prospects are.

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 and letting you make the call after you’ve hopefully learned what you can from what we have to offer.

That said, in this case it works to our advantage because we think all these candidates are very qualified to represent you.

But if you’re still wondering how to make a choice, 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.

And there’s backstory as well. Because we don’t often have the resources to do so regularly, we don’t give the County Commission the coverage we’d like to.

But we’ve run stories in the last year or two on “big” decisions that the commissioners have made, which include the county’s $1.4 billion “timber” lawsuit and its lawsuit against the state challenging Oregon’s mandatory paid sick leave law, the disposition of the Weyerhaeuser and “quarry” properties along the South Santiam River in Sweet Home, and more recently, the possible closure of Sweet Home’s Justice Court.

There’s plenty that impacts us at one level or another, and that’s why we should make sure the right person gets our vote.

You can find our stories on the three County Commission candidates by following the directions in the box on page 5.

The county 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 elections differ a little from others in government in that judges don’t have a lot of liberty to change the direction of the institution, like, 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, which you can read online (see page 5), 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?

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 can come down to a few votes – or a tie, as has happened more than once in our experience. Your vote can count – very much.

It’s your call now.


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