The value of endorsements

Come Nov. 7, voters will choose candidates based on many different factors. In almost all cases, those choices will be their own, as they should. But newspaper endorsements continue to serve a useful purpose for voters.


Anyone reading this editorial probably also reads other newspapers, so you know that newspapers throughout this region still take part in the time-honored tradition of endorsing candidates. It’s difficult to say how much those endorsements help candidates or help voters make their decisions. Editors and reporters definitely study issues and take great pride in providing voters with useful information.

One suspects that, when it’s said and done, endorsements perhaps play just a small part in the overall process of deciding who to vote for. Television and Internet blogs have also become the favored information sites for some voters, and some newspapers are also using these tools. A newspaper in San Francisco is streaming its candidate interviews onto the Web while other papers regularly provide readers with links to blogs they considers worthwhile. Locally, WLOS and The Asheville Citizen-Times worked hard to put together a joint debate between the two congressional candidates. In our democracy media of all types work on many different levels to get information about candidates out to the public.

In addition to helping voters choose candidates, however, endorsements have come to play another role, one that is almost as important: they tell readers a lot about the people who are in charge of the newspapers they read. Are the endorsements well-researched? Are the issues cited as important to the editors of the paper the same issues that are important to the reader? Are their fundamental disagreements about which issues should carry much weight? Do you simply disagree with the editors of a particular newspaper?

As readers consider the endorsements in the various newspapers they read, here’s a point worth remembering — disagreeing with an endorsement doesn’t negate its usefulness. We learn just as much — perhaps more — from those we disagree with.

That said, we’ve decided to endorse only two candidates this election. Sometimes newspapers feel compelled to deliver an endorsement in every single race. We’re endorsing two candidates whom we believe stand head and shoulders above their opponents, both on the issues and in personal skills.

Queen, Snow for state Senate

On Election Day 2006, we encourage voters to support two candidates who are clearly able to provide superior leadership for this region — Joe Sam Queen for the 47th state Senate District and Sen. John Snow for the 50th state Senate District.

Queen in the 47th

Queen, who served in the Senate from 2002-2004, established himself very quickly in his first term as a leader who was able to both bring a vision to Raleigh and work effectively to shepherd legislation through the General Assembly.

During his first term Queen was one of the lawmakers who developed the idea for the Health and Aging Research Center that should provide meaningful research and employment over the next few decades as it comes to fruition. The center will be a partnership between regional health care facilities, universities and colleges, and it is a prime example of the kind of consensus building that is one of Queen’s strengths.

In addition, Queen secured funding for several area agencies and local governments while in Raleigh, proving himself adept at working the legislative process to benefit mountain residents. Even after he was defeated, Queen won praise for his continued efforts to help the region get the necessary state help to recover from the devastating floods of 2004.

Queen’s opponent, Sen. Keith Presnell, is a likeable man with an easygoing personality. To his credit, he did vote for the budget passed this year by the General Assembly, a budget that gave needed raises to teachers and state employees. Otherwise, though, Presnell’s legislative record showed little accomplishment, especially when compared to Queen’s.

Western North Carolina would clearly be best served by Joe Sam Queen’s vision and ability. Voters would do the state and the region a favor by returning Queen to office.

Snow in the 50th

The main advantage Sen. John Snow offers to constituents is a record that’s long on experience and achievement. His tenure as a judge provides him with a background that served him well during his first term in Raleigh. Not only is he an expert on a wide range of legal issues, but he also has the independence to think for himself.

Snow’s leadership in helping to curb the easy access dealers had to the ingredients used in methamphetamine has been well-documented. He also earned the respect of many in Raleigh and in his district by speaking out in the Jim Black scandal. He was quoted in newspapers across the state when he said Black should step down as speaker of the state House while the probe into possible ethics violations was going on. If wrongdoing is found, Snow also went on the record as saying Black should be held accountable.

Snow also was selected to chair the Senate budget committee for the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety. That was the first time in more than a decade a freshman senator has been chosen to lead a budget committee. That choice makes it obvious that his colleagues think highly of his decision-making abilities.

Snow’s opponent, Ken McKim, is a bright young man with an obvious interest in politics and public policy. But his ambitions seem larger than his real-world experiences. He has lived and worked in several different states. Before we elect anyone to the state Senate representing this district, we’d like to be sure they are grounded in local issues and local culture. One day McKim might fit that bill, but not yet.

For his obvious skills in working the legislature and his proven dedication to the citizens of this district, Snow should be re-elected for a second term to the state Senate.

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