Campaigning the way it ought to be

When has a Jackson County election season ever brought so many ugly mailers? So many outlandish claims? So many crazy charges that later have to be amended?

We won't name the guilty here — if you're paying attention, you already know who they are. Instead we want to recognize a few folks on the other side: the four men running for the county's Board of Commissioners.

No matter who wins the two seats open on the board, Jeff Golden, John Rachor, Don Skundrick and Mark Wisnovsky have conducted the kind of campaigns candidates everywhere could learn from.

In the days before ballots went into the mail they appeared at candidate forums or on radio or TV almost daily. Each trooped into a Mail Tribune editorial board meeting with his opponent and over the following weeks faithfully answered a long series of reader questions we've posted on our website.

They've done it all — apparently — without going negative.

It should be obvious, but voters benefit from an approach like this. Because of the kind of campaigns these candidates have run, it's clear to voters where they stand on all sorts of issues. If voters don't know their thoughts on, say, commissioner salaries and raises, it's only because they haven't been listening or reading closely enough.

These kinds of campaigns can happen partly because commissioner candidates have the luxury of not having to deal with the political action committees so devoted to "helping" statewide and national candidates.

But the four men in this race have had dozens of opportunities to skewer each other publicly even without the help of others. The worst we've heard in the several months of this campaign season have been lighthearted jabs.

This might have something to do with the pressure the office has faced in recent years. Decisions such as the board's approval — and justification — of big raises for itself during a severe recession have damaged the public's trust. Voters are paying attention now.

But the tenor of the race speaks to the character of the men involved as well. Whether by implicit or outright agreement, they have chosen to run campaigns that don't pick at their opponents but instead repeatedly lay out their own plans for coming to grips with the problems facing Jackson County.

Only two of the four will move forward Tuesday to win seats on the board. But all four already have served Jackson County by running campaigns as clean and helpful to voters as any we've seen.

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