RICHARDSON: A pre-election eve audit

May 18, 2014 

Tuesday is the last day to vote in the 2014 Republican and Democratic primaries. Our last endorsements for the Republican and Democratic Senate races are to the left. It has been a long process, one of the most extensive we have ever attempted.

Over the course of several weeks, we interviewed 37 candidates in 14 races. We didn’t get to them all, such as the race for state superintendent of schools, which had 15 candidates.

Most of our interviews lasted an hour or more and sometimes went late into the evening. With the members of the Editorial Board -- myself, Publisher Don Bailey and Executive Editor Sherrie Marshall -- there was our Citizens Advisory Board: Charles Bass, Bob Berlin, Gigi Cabell, Bill Curry, Amy Elton, Mary Lou Ezell, Hill Kaplan, Philip Lengel, Leroy Mack, Giles O’Neal, Gene Strouss, Richard Tarver Jr., and Betty Toussaint. They gave up nights and some afternoons to help us come to the decisions all voters have to make when they approach their respective voting booths.

If candidates thought they were facing a bunch of Caspar Milquetoasts, they soon found they were mistaken. Without hesitation, I would rate the members of our Citizens Advisory Board as some of the most informed voters in the county. They came prepared and peppered candidates with tough questions. All I had to do was get them started. We owe them great thanks.

There are a number of things I would advise candidates appearing before a group of influential people not to do. Don’t say “God told me to run for (this or that) office.” Yes, that has happened a number of times. After such a statement, my next question is: “Did God tell you that you were going to win?” They are generally off their game after that exchange.

Candidates who aren’t relaxed and are not forthcoming or try to parse every sentence do not come off very well. On the other hand, there are candidates who are too flippant or seem to be running for an office other than the one they are running for. Candidates should know their facts, because the interviewers are no hayseeds. Candidates should also understand our mission. It does not revolve around the tribal titles of Republican and Democrat. We couldn’t care less. We want the best person for the job.

Since this is a primary, you’ll have to wait until October when we endorse in the General Election to pull out any preconceived notions you might have about our politics. Whether you believe it or not, we’re “just the facts” kind of people with a good government agenda.

What distresses me about our endorsement process? I would love to have the interviews and endorsements finished and published before early voting begins. However, early voting started April 28. With such a large field of candidates, finishing before that date was impossible. We all have day jobs.

There are traps and snares that await if we endorse early. It is not unheard of for candidates to make huge gaffes as Election Day approaches. Some get desperate.

While candidates are supposed to be cool and collected as they bet it all hoping a majority of people will like them more than their opponents, running for office is stressful. It’s physically challenging. Why anyone would willingly subject themselves to such a process is beyond me. And for what?

Chances are, even with a total of more than 90 names on most ballots, the majority of people the candidates are running to represent are AWOL on Election Day. It’s a pretty safe bet to say turnout will be less than 50 percent. Much less. I would love to be proven wrong here.

Every election season, candidates restore some of my confidence in our republic. There are good people willing to offer themselves for public service in a cruel and cynical world. For their trouble, they are subjected to every slight imaginable sponsored by groups we’ve never heard of. Their images are distorted and their words twisted. Politics is a blood sport that, for me at least, holds my interest like nothing else.

Please vote.

Charles E. Richardson is The Telegraph’s editorial page editor. He can be reached at 478-744-4342 or via email at crichardson@macon.com. Tweet@crichard1020.

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