Editorial: Some changes to our local political endorsements

01/27/2017 5:50 AM |

Two years ago, the editors of this newspaper began to reconsider the number of political offices for which we issue endorsements. We ultimately decided not to modify our existing practice because most of that year’s candidates hadn’t yet been announced — and we didn’t want readers to think the policy change reflected our opinion of any of them.

Since the late 1970s, we’ve written endorsements for nearly every town race and for most county, state and federal positions on the local ballot.

We believe it’s important to offer our readers independent guidance before Election Day and will continue to do so. But we no longer find it necessary to endorse for every race simply because that’s what we’ve always done.

With the rumor mill already churning for the next political cycle and candidates beginning to formally declare their intention to run for local office, we felt this week was an appropriate time to announce that we intend to make some changes before this fall’s town and county elections:

• We will continue to issue endorsements for all legislative and executive positions, including town supervisor, county executive, village mayor, Town Board, county legislator and village trustee. We will also continue to endorse candidates for town highway superintendent, a position that involves managing not only our roadways but a significant portion of the town budget.

• We will not make endorsements, however, when a candidate is cross-endorsed, running unopposed or facing an opponent who isn’t campaigning actively. We’d rather invest whatever resources might go into that endorsement in additional coverage of other key races.

• We will no longer automatically write endorsements for the positions of Trustee, town justice, assessor, receiver of taxes and town clerk. That doesn’t mean we’ll never again make endorsements in those races, but will do so at our discretion based on how meaningful they are in a given year. One could argue, for example, that in 2015, when a longtime incumbent declined to seek re-election, town justice was as significant a race as any. So under our new policy, it’s likely we still would have made an endorsement in that contest. The Trustees, of course, oversee highly important environmental issues, but we don’t always cover their activities, so we’ll leave open the possibility that we might not weigh in routinely on those positions.

Aside from open seats, another factor that might make us more likely to write an endorsement in a given race is a controversy involving that office or a specific candidate.

These changes are designed to give our staff more time to spend on covering the races that mean the most to our readers. As of now, we haven’t decided which offices we’ll write endorsements for this year. But you can assume it will be fewer than in election years past.

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