Slusher: Wide world of campaign coverage under way

All the talk this week — and last for that matter — has been on Monday's presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, but it's not just the season of high-profile presidential politics. It's also time to pay serious attention to races from the state legislature to the county board, with a few towns adding extra spice by way of important local referendums. You've already seen some of these stories rising to the surface.

Representatives of our editorial board have been conducting on-the-record meetings with candidates to help us determine who we'll endorse as a paper. These interviews aren't the sole criteria we use to evaluate candidates, but they provide a valuable foundation that, along with the candidates' websites, other news stories about them and their answers to questionnaires we sent them weeks ago, helps us reach a well-reasoned consensus. Beyond that, they also provide details for news stories that will continue through Election Day, Nov. 8.

Reporters, by the way, have no influence in the decisions editorial board members make regarding endorsements. We expect their reporting to be fair and thorough for all candidates, regardless of whom we endorse.

You will begin seeing our endorsements as soon as next week. We time them so as to be complete before early voting begins, which this election will be on Oct. 24.

You'll also begin seeing at our website soon the candidates' responses to questionnaires we sent them in early August, and here's a little background you might consider as you evaluate candidates: When we sent out the questionnaires, we gave the candidates a deadline with ample time to complete their answers, and many made that deadline. Many did not, and we worked with them to address whatever technical problems they may have encountered. Even so, many still devised elaborate explanations and excuses to try to justify their failure, while still claiming to acknowledge the value of this direct and unfiltered opportunity to define their candidacy and promote the issues important to them.

Our goal is to post all questionnaires simultaneously, so that no candidate can feel disadvantaged. Our Grammar Moses would rightfully scold me if I said we literally bend over backward to help the candidates, but many of our staff who deal most closely with this process certainly feel something like that kind of pain. At some point, though, we put the interests of voters and the many candidates who take the process seriously ahead of the individuals with excuses. We post all the questionnaires we have and add latecomers individually, depending on our ability to fit cumbersome exceptions into our schedules.

So, if you go to our site to study the candidates in a race you care about and they're not all there, you might consider that at least a potential reflection of the commitment they're willing to give the office or the respect they have for your vote.

As with any feature of a campaign — whether news stories, websites, endorsements or even debates — you shouldn't let this one element solely determine your decision. But we hope that by examining it in the context of the full array of campaign coverage, you'll be wiser and more confident when you walk into your polling place.

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