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posted: 3/7/2013 5:00 AM

Endorsements built on sincerity, care for suburbs

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On Sunday, we launched into a three-week period of election endorsements with an explanation of why we do them. Today, I want to give you a little closer look at how they work and, perhaps most important, why they're valid.

We said in our editorial that "our priority here isn't to influence your vote but rather to engage you and your neighbors in the process." Yet, while we're not necessarily writing to persuade, we do work hard to provide thoughtful, well-researched reasoning.

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Our editors can't all live in every one of the more than 90 towns the Daily Herald covers or have children in each of about six dozen school districts in our circulation area, of course. But we do consider each municipality and school district an important part of the larger suburban community of which we are all a part, and we care that they all are governed in a way that will afford their residents and constituents the best possible quality of life. With these commitments in mind, we can probe towns' races in some ways that even longtime residents cannot or do not, all with nothing personal to gain or lose from the outcome of a particular race, just the desire to see well-run communities and schools.

That process involves personal contact with every candidate willing to talk to us and careful reviews of their backgrounds through online research, news stories, candidate questionnaires and an institutional history that sometimes finds our editors and reporters -- who by the way are excellent resources but have no influence in the endorsement process -- knowing as much or more about the evolution of a given town or school board's specific issue than even some well-prepared candidates. After all their research, editors frequently engage in serious give-and-take discussions as they wrestle with difficult decisions about whom to support. These, I daresay, are lengths to which many voters do not go in preparing to vote, and they give our work legitimate authority.

Along the way, we encounter all kinds of interesting individuals and situations. Already this election season, we've found candidates who refused to sit in the same room with their opponents for an interview, candidates whose schedules conveniently turned inconvenient when they learned opponents would be interviewed with them, candidates who refuse to participate in the process altogether and candidates who ignore the process until they see the attention it has brought to their opponents then belatedly demand access we had pleaded previously to provide them.

And we've encountered candidates who abruptly altered their personal schedules for the opportunity to discuss their goals with us, candidates who braved snowstorms and long distances to engage with our editors and their opponents in discussions about their communities, candidates who've been eager to complete our questionnaires and candidates who have gone out of their way to provide information about their skills, backgrounds and visions.

Indeed -- even though sometimes, like so many things in life, the occasional posers, grumps, braggarts, power grabbers or just plain numskulls do define the process more than their numbers justify -- we are repeatedly impressed with the sincerity, skill and dedication that most candidates bring to their races, whether we endorse them or not.

So, yes, our first goal is to encourage your interest and involvement in some of the most important decisions you can make about your quality of life, and we know very well that our endorsement may not be the thing that sways your vote to a given candidate. But given all that we invest in order to produce each of the short reflections you're seeing on the editorial page these days, it would certainly be no embarrassment if it did.

• Jim Slusher, jslusher@dailyherald.com, is an assistant managing editor at the Daily Herald. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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