Northwest election season: Really, we're here to help
With election season arriving, The Seattle Times editorial board is interviewing candidates for the purpose of making recommendations to voters. Editorial page editor Kate Riley discusses the filters the board is using to vet candidates.
Seattle Times editorial page editor
Ah, June in the Pacific Northwest. While the region mightily tries and sometimes succeeds to hold the unobstructed gaze of the sun, another not-so-natural phenomenon threatens to obstruct our view.
That would be tribes of partisan operatives propping up their candidates while tearing down the opponents, intent on deepening the divisiveness that mars our political systems.
Just as the rhododendron blossoms start to fade, election signs are blooming all over. Pollsters and robocallers try to scratch their way into our households like chipmunks in the crawl space.
The good news is politicians are never as evil as their opponents make them out to be. Rule of thumb: Take it all with a grain of salt, then do your homework.
This past week, The Seattle Times editorial board began meeting with candidates for the purpose of making recommendations to voters, a sometimes controversial process as old as newspapering. Voters of all political stripes will be surprised that we get accused of being both too liberal and too conservative. And then there are those who just can't get over The Times' 2000 backing of George W. Bush.
Shake it off, folks. We recommended John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008.
In both of those rounds, we recommended Republican Dino Rossi for the governor's mansion over Democrat Chris Gregoire. The voters disagreed, at first marginally and then handily. In 2010 we stuck with incumbent U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat, when Rossi challenged her.
Also that year, we made recommendations in 28 legislative races around King and Snohomish counties, split evenly between Republicans and Democrats.
The Times editorial board is not ideologically predictable. We will be true to a set of filters we have embraced to vet candidates.
Among them, for both federal and state candidates:
• Moderation and independence. Think of the moderate state Senate Democrats who this year pushed beyond ideology to join the minority Republican caucus to enact necessary state government reforms.
• Fiscal responsibility. We're looking for candidates who understand that the economy has permanently reset after the 2008 crisis. Like the private sector, government must do better with what it has. New tax revenues are not out of the question, but government must reform and reprioritize to earn voter trust.
• Commitment to Main Street recovery.
Additionally, for state candidates, we are looking closely at their priorities for the state's entire education system — from pre-K to higher education. No more cuts to education, push for proven reforms and make the system's students, not its adults, the first priority.
On the federal side, we're looking for candidates who will continue pressure to end our involvement in Afghanistan, reform the immigration system and government agencies (think: U.S. Postal Service, Federal Communications Commission) and tighten financial regulations.
In today's lead editorial, we begin an occasional series comparing the positions of the two leading gubernatorial candidates — former U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, and state Attorney General Rob McKenna, a Republican. We have already started a similar series on the presidential race (http://seati.ms/govcompare).
In this season, voters' most serious challenge will be sorting quality information from the false, divisive and hysterical messages that too often mark campaigns run by the political parties in a pitched battle for control. We will try to help. Though all readers will disagree with us some of the time, we strive to carefully explain our recommendations.
Better to look beyond the rhetoric wars, something suggested by moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt in his book, "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion."
"Morality binds and blinds," he writes. "It binds us into ideological teams that fight each other as though the fate of the world depended on our side winning each battle. It blinds us to the fact that each team is composed of good people who have something important to say."
His advice, which he notes was inspired by Rodney King, is "We're all stuck here for a while, so let's try to work it out."
Kate Riley's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org