As both a blogger and editorial page editor, and not exactly in that order, I can run into certain conflicts: If I use the blog to share my impressions of candidates as we wade through endorsement interviews, am I not risking giving away whom we are likely to endorse?
And yet if I don’t share such information from day to day, what’s the point in an editorial page editor having a blog? Isn’t that the (admittedly theoretical) value of the Weblog — that by virtue of my job, I have access to this kind of information? Shouldn’t you get something extra for going there to read it?
Last week, it struck me for the first time: Why the big mystery about whom we might endorse? I’ve written over and over that the point in a newspaper’s endorsement is the why, not the who. If you just glance at the picture and the headline, you’ve missed the point of that kind of editorial.
The benefit for the reader lies in pondering the reasons we give for the choice. (This is a fact easily lost on many of those who read my blog, unfortunately. Judging by their comments, many remain trapped in the phony left-right, Democratic-Republican, are-you-for-this-one-or-are-you-for-that-one dichotomy — which closes their minds to reason.)
The idea is that by reading our endorsements, and reading rebuttals, and thinking about whether you agree or disagree, should add depth to your own decision-making as a voter — whether you vote in the end for the candidate we endorsed or not.
Besides, trying to guess the eventual endorsement from what I write after an interview is inadequate on two levels: First, an endorsement consists not just of what I think, but of what a consensus of the editorial board arrives at. Besides, I could change my own mind as we go along. I once pulled back an endorsement that was on the page and headed for the press. (I had last-minute qualms, did a little more digging and consulted with my colleagues. We rewrote it and went with the other candidate. Neither of them knows that to this day.)
So, that resolved, I put my initial, rough impressions of our first three candidates (out of 55 I’ll be interviewing for the June 13 primary), on the blog last week. In each case, we were interviewing challengers. When it works out, we try to bring them in first because we tend to know less about them, and this gives us more time to get up to speed.
I also put capsules of those blog posts in my column Sunday. Here are those minimal excerpts, but if you are at all interested (and I hope you are; state legislators are more likely to have a direct impact on your life than those folks in Washington that everyone loves to shout about), I highly recommend following the links to the much-longer full blog posts:
Artie White, H89, Republican.
I didn’t ask Mr. White (challenging Rep. Kenny Bingham of Lexington County) his age, but I know the approximate answer: Quite young. The nice thing about talking to a candidate so recently (two years) out of college is that he still remembers more than most politicians have forgotten about representative democracy and how it’s supposed to work.
Mr. White sets less store by party than his former boss, Joe Wilson (which is a good thing). When asked whether he would make a point of regularly voting with the GOP caucus, he said, “I don’t really think it’s important.”
His main issue? Eminent domain. “Property rights in this country… is the basis of a free country,” he pronounced.
Greatest strengths? Sincerely good intentions and good theoretical knowledge of how government is supposed to work. Greatest weaknesses? Youth and inexperience.
Sheri Few, H79, Republican.
Sheri Few of Kershaw County, who is challenging Bill Cotty for the Republican nomination in District 79, was our first challenger armed with money from school-“choice” advocates, going up against a vocal Republican opponent of Gov. Mark Sanford’s “Put Parents in Charge” plan: “I am a proponent of school choice,” she said. “We need to start treating parents as consumers.”
But she objects to being portrayed as some sort of tool of out-of-state ideologues. She notes that she has raised $30,000 for her race, with only $8,000 of it coming from outside South Carolina.
Why should voters choose her over her opponent? “A Republican should vote for me over Bill Cotty for a couple of reasons,” she said. “I am a conservative.”
She said with tax credits, private entities would set up various schools to address special needs, such as learning disabilities. I said I could see how that might happen in Columbia, where there was enough demand. But what would be the motivation for private enterprise to set up such choices in the areas where South Carolina’s greatest educational challenges lie — poor, sparsely populated counties?
“That’s an excellent question,” she said. “I haven’t really thought about that.”
Joe McEachern, H77, Democratic.
Mr. McEachern, a member of Richland County Council who is challenging Rep. John Scott, is a straightforward sort who goes his own way, as fellow council members can attest to their delight or chagrin.
For instance, when we asked how he would get things done in the House, as a minority member of the minority party, he said, “I’m not one of those folks that carry the banner.” He said that the best course for South Carolina is likely to be something that transcends party and race. As a result, at times he will disagree with the Legislative Black Caucus.
He sees no need for voters to elect the “long ballot” of statewide officials — or for that matter, the purely magisterial offices on the county level.
When he says that, “People say, ‘Oh, no …. We’ll never get an African-American elected” to statewide office if they become appointive. “Have we ever gotten an African-American elected?” he answers.
“Elect a governor and hold him accountable” for having a diverse Cabinet, he said. “That is the best way.”
More importantly, thanks to his experience in local government, he understands the crying need to get the state government — including county legislative delegations — out of local affairs. “We need to make a clean break,” he said. “Either you’re going to have Home Rule or you’re not.”
He said Rep. Scott “thinks it’s his seat,” and “takes it very personal that I’m running against him. But it’s not personal.”
He said folks in the district complain that Mr. Scott neglects them. By contrast, he says, Bill Cotty — the Republican who represents a neighboring House district — is “more hands on.” Mr. McEachern is indeed no typical banner-carrier.