Crossing the Election Day finish line
Reaching Election Day was like running a marathon and finally finishing. And that’s for us opinion writers — I can just imagine how the candidates felt.
The annual test of endurance comes about because our newspapers choose to endorse candidates. Not all newspapers in this country do, but we believe it is part of our responsibility as leaders in the community.
Are we trying to tell you what to do? No, that’s not it. We are saying that after research, interviews and discussions, here are the candidates we consider best to represent the district or state. Weigh that endorsement — and the reasons for it — then decide for yourself.
I’d like to explain the endorsement process and how it all worked out. Some of this might be surprising.
We invite candidates to Editorial Board meetings at our newspaper. For local state House and Senate races, these interviews were here at The News-Times office at 333 Main St. in Danbury. (We’re moving in a few weeks, but just a block down the street.) Most candidates look forward to this exercise, or say they do.
As Editorial Page Editor (called Opinion Editor at some newspapers), I coordinate the schedule like putting a puzzle together, and lead the sessions. For local ones, the reporter who covers that race will join me and other editors might, too. Photographers record the action.
For an hour, we talk about their reasons for running and question their views on a variety of issues. It’s a fascinating learning experience and the time always goes by quickly.
I like having the candidates for a particular race come to the same session. It helps to sharpen the differences in their approach to government. Occasionally, that can lead to testiness, as when Democratic candidate Julie Kushner questioned incumbent state Sen. Michael McLachlan about his role in a forum the week before. Or it could highlight camaraderie — incumbent state Rep. David Arconti and Republican challenger Veasna Rouen got along so well they fist-bumped several times during the hour.
While reporters come to the meetings and usually write a story about it, they are not involved in deciding which candidate to endorse. We keep the line firm between objective news — their job, and opinion — my realm.
For local races, we conducted interviews for two state Senate and nine House districts and ran an endorsement for a third Senate seat written by Mike Daly, my counterpart at the Connecticut Post, because the district overlapped our papers.
Surprisingly, the endorsements went for six Democrats and six Republicans. This was not by design for balance. That’s just how it split.
Some of the decisions were quite difficult because both candidates had much to offer. And I wrote the endorsements knowing that one camp would be pleased, and one disappointed.
On Election Day, nine of the candidates we endorsed won; three (two Republicans and one Democrat) lost.
For Congressional races, here in Danbury we interviewed the major candidates for the 5th District; we endorsed Democrat Jahana Hayes, who won. In Norwalk, we interviewed 4th District candidates and endorsed Democrat Jim Himes, who won.
Candidates for statewide offices came to Editorial Board meetings at Hearst Connecticut headquarters in Norwalk. The News-Times is one of Hearst Connecticut’s eight daily newspapers. As a group, our endorsements speak with a strong voice.
These edit boards involved my Hearst opinion colleagues, John Breunig and Daly. We interviewed candidates individually for governor (Ned Lamont and Oz Griebel; Bob Stefanowski declined), attorney general, and U.S. Senate. We endorsed the Democrats for those races, and all three won.
We question the candidates on behalf of you, our readers, and gain knowledge. I must confess, the interviews also are stimulating — not one was dull — and we came away with appreciation for each candidate who cared enough about our state to campaign for months on end.
Crossing that election marathon finish line felt great. I look forward to next year’s.
Contact Editorial Page Editor Jacqueline Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.