Dimon Kendrick Holmes: Why We endorse candidates

April 25, 2014 

In Sunday's opinion section, the Ledger-Enquirer editorial board will endorse a candidate in the mayor's race, as well as in the Columbus Council and Muscogee County School Board races.

This is the earliest we've ever endorsed. During the 2012 election season, several readers called asking when we were going to announce our endorsements, because they wanted to vote early but they also wanted to know whom we were going to endorse.

I was going to say they wanted to know how they should vote, but sometimes readers want to know our endorsements so they can vote the other way. In the past, I've tried to appease unendorsed candidates by saying they might actually have a better chance to win because we didn't endorse them. It's meant as a joke, I guess, but it's really not.

Over the years, we've endorsed our share of losers. Maybe I should clarify and say we've endorsed some folks with winning qualities who lost. And perhaps we've endorsed some losers who won.

However people intend to use our endorsements, they'd rather read them the day before early voting begins than the day before Election Day. So look for them in tomorrow's paper.

Early voting, by the way, begins in Muscogee County on Monday. Election Day is May 20, which is of course a Tuesday.

This leads to the bigger question of why we endorse candidates in the first place. The textbook answer is that we want to be part of the civic dialogue, and we have the access and exposure needed to make this happen. Candidates want to tell us why our readers should vote for them, and our readers want to tell us what they're looking for in a candidate, or at least which issues matter most to them.

Our reporters talk to the candidates and they talk to citizens and interact with readers, but they do not endorse candidates or participate in the process in any way. They cover the stories.

Michael Owen covers city government and Mark Rice covers the school district. Their job is to gather information and tell readers what it means, but not what they should think about it.

That's why we have an editorial section. Our editorial editor, Dusty Nix, doesn't contribute to news coverage and has an office removed from the newsroom. He pushes the civic dialogue about the issues that arise from what's happening in our community. He meets weekly with the editorial board to craft a collective opinion.

The purpose of editorials and endorsements is not to tell you how to think. It's to tell you our reasoning behind the stance we've taken -- and forcing ourselves to take a stance helps us sharpen our reasoning and keeps us honest. The idea is that sharing how we thought through an issue and arrived at a viewpoint will encourage you to do the same thing for yourself.

Mary Margaret Byrne, our former editorial page editor and a mentor to Nix, put it this way: "We always ask the readers to make a choice, so we ought to make a choice too."

But in the end, the choice is yours.

Contact Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, executive editor, at dkholmes@ledger-enquirer.com

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