Nelson: Why we’re not endorsing in primary races

Editorial endorsements have a long history in the newspaper business, and this newspaper has participated in that tradition for years. This year, we’re scaling it back a bit, and waiting for the general election in November to weigh in on our choices. I’ll explain why in a bit, but first I want to discuss the overall concept.

Some readers find editorial endorsements — we prefer to call them “recommendations” — to be arrogant, as though the newspaper’s editorial board is telling readers how to vote. We don’t see it that way.

Our choices are no more than that, and we want readers to make up their own minds when they fill out their ballots. But we think our recommendations have value because, as the editorial board of the newspaper, we have more direct access to candidates than most voters do, and we pay close attention to every news story the paper’s reporters file on the candidates and their positions. Our recommendations are another voice in the community conversation, and readers are free to ignore them completely if they wish. We often hear from folks who sarcastically thank us for printing endorsements because that way they know who not to vote for.

Editorial recommendations can be especially valuable in the so-called “down-ballot” races — contests for school boards, city councils, county surveyor or irrigation district boards. Those races don’t get a lot of attention, and candidates don’t spend a lot of time or money campaigning, so many voters don’t have a lot to go on in deciding who to choose.

As the editorial board of the region’s leading news outlet, we are able to sit down with candidates face-to-face and ask questions about their background, their views and what they want to accomplish in office. Few voters have that opportunity, and we can give readers the benefit of that access by sharing our impressions, which may help readers make up their minds.

And that’s why we’re taking a pass on making recommendations in this year’s primary. If we can’t spend time with every candidate, ask them direct questions and get a sense of their demeanor and qualifications, then our endorsements would be based on little more than comparing resumes and position statements — which voters can do perfectly well for themselves.

This year, the primary races for U.S. Congress and State Senate District 3 alone have 15 candidates. Our editorial board is stretched thin enough in getting the paper out. I felt strongly that, if we couldn’t do endorsements right — with in-person interviews involving as many editorial board members as possible — we would be doing readers a disservice by doing them at all. My fellow board members agreed.

We will be weighing in on one May 15 ballot item — the Medford School District’s request for a bond issue to build career and technical education facilities. Watch for that in Sunday’s paper. And we’ll be back on the job for the general election in November.

Meanwhile, ballots will be mailed Friday, and we urge everyone to return theirs by Election Day.

Reach Editorial Page Editor Gary Nelson at

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