Today, The Observer kicks off a series of political endorsements with our recommendations in the races for governor and lieutenant governor.
We print endorsements for the same reason we run our other editorials. The Observer cares deeply about this community and this state. We think it's important for readers to know where we stand. We hope our opinions will either inform you or inspire you, or both. At a minimum, it's one more piece of information for you to use as you make up your mind about your ballot.
We don't expect you to agree with us on every choice. That's not the point. We just want to give you our reasoning behind why we think one candidate is better than the other, and then you can make up your own mind.
We disagree with people who say newspapers shouldn't endorse. The whole purpose of our opinion pages is to tell you what we think on matters of public importance. And there's no more important public question than whom we elect to represent us in government.
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One other point: The editorial board operates completely separately from the news side of the paper. Our newsroom colleagues discover our endorsements at the same time you do – in the paper or online. So don't hold our choices against them.
How we do it
Here's how the process works:
We have an eight-member editorial board. Its members include our publisher, Ann Caulkins, and the seven-person editorial staff listed in the staff box at the top right of the page across from this one. The board is responsible for deciding whom the paper will endorse.
We gather information about each race and each candidate. We go through archived news coverage; we read the candidates' Web sites; we observe the candidates at public events over the course of the campaign; and, in many cases, we interview the candidates in person.
Then we get together as a group and talk about the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate as each of us sees them. There are different opinions, as you would imagine, making for a more informed discussion. Ultimately, we come to a consensus on whom the paper will endorse. Caulkins has veto power, but she has never exercised it.
So how do we decide whom to choose? A lot of factors go into it, and no single factor determines the pick. We analyze which candidate we most agree with on the issues. We assess the candidates' character, integrity and leadership ability. We look at their records of transparency and honesty. We consider their interest in and record of working across the aisle with the other party to get things done. And we will generally endorse incumbents over non-incumbents unless the incumbents have given us reason to recommend a replacement.
We do not go out of our way to endorse Democrats or Republicans, though we tend to agree with Democrats more often on the issues. (And does it even make sense to complain that we're not objective? These are our opinions – they are supposed to be opinionated!)
Early voting: Oct. 16
We'll run our endorsements throughout October, leading up to the Nov. 4 election. We will endorse in every contested statewide race, four congressional races, every Mecklenburg race and the Charlotte and Mecklenburg bond referenda.
We are going to print as many as we can before Oct. 16, when early voting begins, and will get others in quickly after that. We'll summarize them all in the paper on Election Day, and they will be posted at www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion as we publish them.
We're not telling you how to vote. We're telling you how we would vote, based on extensive research and time spent getting to know the candidates. Most of all, we want you to tune in, get informed, and cast your ballot. As the old saying goes, if you don't vote, you can't complain.