Making a tough job tougher: Endorsements coming for March 19 primaries

A recent conversation between Daily Herald Editorial Board members about a particular political race was timely and telling.

In order to manage the large number of candidates we must evaluate when making decisions about whom to endorse in various races, we assign endorsing editors to specific races for which to conduct research and interviews. Then, they make recommendations that are open to broader discussion by the full board.

In this particular conversation, editors were discussing the prospective endorsement in a race for the March 19 primary. They reflected on sharp differences between two candidates’ positions on certain issues, and their decidedly different but still compelling backgrounds and leadership qualities.

Eventually, the editor assigned to the races — who, by the way, is not new to the process — said in exasperation, “I hate it. This is just so hard. You can make a case for both of them.”

This is often true — for editors making endorsements as for voters themselves. Nobody said democracy is easy, and thankfully it’s not. It is inconvenient but also reassuring when the choice of a candidate for local, state or national office requires serious study and deep reflection.

You face such decisions as the primary approaches. So do we. It’s all part of our process of developing recommendations for key elected offices, and you will begin seeing the results of our work on tomorrow’s Opinion page.

The March 19 primary, remember, is not the selection of office holders, but the decision on who will represent the Republican Party or the Democratic Party in November for various positions. Much of the news you’ve been seeing in recent weeks has focused on primaries or caucuses in other states — notably Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — so the dominant political conversation has centered on the national race for president, especially on the Republican side, since there is no serious competition for incumbent President Biden among Democrats.

There won’t be any in Illinois, either, for that matter. And failing some unforeseeable collapse, there also probably won’t be any among Republicans. Donald Trump seems destined to add Illinois to his string of primary victories. But aside from the presidency, there are various races that deserve your attention at the county, state and congressional level.

Choices in many of them will not be easy. But we can help.

Our team of editors has been doing homework on the races with the goal of identifying candidates we feel confident recommending. We will begin publishing our recommendations on Wednesday and conclude with a summary of endorsements on Sunday, in advance of the start of expanded early voting on Monday.

There are surprisingly few challenges within parties for this year’s primaries, but that shouldn’t diminish your interest in those that are on the ballot. If done properly, primaries should produce November contests that are just as difficult to sort through as those in the spring.

Of course, differences between candidates on certain important issues can be obvious, depending on how well their views of government spending, taxation, criminal justice or various social issues align with yours. But government is complex, on the local level as well as the state and national levels, and selecting effective leaders is often more than just identifying people who agree with you. You may find that one candidate agrees with you on some issues and another on other issues, and beyond that, effective government requires creating a mix of leaders with qualities of cooperation, communication and responsiveness that exceed the merits of simple compatibility or unanimity.

With those thoughts in mind, we’ve been examining candidates for the strength of their background as well as the leadership qualities they bring in representing their party, as well as in producing viable, compelling contests this fall. In that context, I have to admit, we’re not necessarily expecting to make your job as a voter easier.

If we do our jobs right, we might even make it harder. But, in the process, the end product could also be better — for our counties, our state and our nation.

• Jim Slusher,, is managing editor for opinion at the Daily Herald. Follow him on Facebook at and on Twitter at @JimSlusher.

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