October will bring election endorsements and letters

During the coming month, Washington residents will decide who will lead this state into a new century. We will also vote on a half-dozen initiatives with enormous consequences for our future. As a nation, we will decide who should lead the country.

It’s an important, even solemn moment that calls for as much attention and discussion as possible.

We hope to help the dialogue along on these pages. Beginning Monday, we will be making endorsements in election races, including contests for legislative positions in the districts representing Snohomish and Island counties as well as for statewide offices, Congress and the presidency. And we will continue printing readers’ own endorsements — letters about the election choices.

Notice, if you will, the order in which we mentioned the different election contests. We put the Legislature first because democracy and self-government begin at home, with our local representatives. All the national media attention tends to go to the presidential race first, with occasional nods to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives contests.

When it comes to determining how well our communities function, though, state and local governments have much more say than anyone in D.C. Although its authority is being whittled away by unwise initiatives, the Legislature plays a vital role in determining state policy on education, health care and criminal justice. And it makes critical decisions about how much support and authority to give local counties, cities and school boards in carrying out their duties.

Of course, it’s wonderful to have good leadership in the White House, but not even Roosevelt or Lincoln could have protected freedom if local and state governments had collapsed. Indeed, there wouldn’t be any democracy left if we turned all decisions over to the president.

The endorsements made here represent the opinion of the editorial board, which is composed of the people whose names appear at the top of the page. The news department operates independently and is not involved in the endorsements. The endorsement decisions are reached after studying the candidates and issues. The process includes interviewing the candidates, generally in person, unless a candidate’s schedule or wishes preclude a discussion.

Already, election letters have begun to arrive. We will print as many as space and time allow, but experience indicates that it won’t be possible to print every letter. Our biggest concern will be to provide a balanced sampling of viewpoints. There are some guidelines we can offer to increase the chance of a letter being run. For the races that receive less general coverage —— such as the Legislature, state Supreme Court and most administrative offices under the governor — we will focus exclusively on positive letters. Well-meaning candidates for lesser office can easily be tarred, because there is less information out there about them. In major races, feel free to sound off — within reasonable bounds of accuracy and taste.

The key limit is the number of words. No election letter can be used if it exceeds 300 words. The chances of publication will be much higher for letters that are considerably shorter. We suggest 150 words as a realistic aim. And stick to one topic.

Just as shorter is better, so is sooner. We will accept letters as long as 300 words through 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 23. Letters of 150 words or less will be accepted for consideration through 5 p.m., Monday, Oct. 30. But there will be relatively few days available for printing letters at that point, and the letters selected for publication will be given priority on the basis of when we received them.

Letters must include the writer’s name, signature, daytime phone and mailing address. We ask that representatives of campaign organizations not submit letters; enforcement depends on the honor system.

Letters should be addressed to Letters Section, The Herald, Box 930, Everett, WA 98206. Letters may also be faxed to 425-339-3458 or e-mailed to:

letters@heraldnet.com.

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