Rick Carroll: Endorsements are for readers to take or leave
Aspen CO Colorado
Sherry Caloia takes control of the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office today. And as far as she is concerned, the local newspapers get some credit for her triumph in the November elections.
“It’s always the kiss of death,” Caloia said last week about The Aspen Times and Glenwood Springs Post-Independent’s endorsement of incumbent Martin Beeson.
In this instance, Caloia’s logic was sound. A Democrat, Caloia defeated Beeson by a narrow 17,633 to 17,449 vote in the three-county district. Caloia did little campaigning in Pitkin County, not that it mattered – there, she trounced the Republican incumbent by a 6,023 to 3,037 margin.
Readers often point out that their local newspapers, when they don’t endorse the victorious candidate or ballot question, are “out of touch” with their community. Aspen resident Andy Hanson suggested that some two weeks after the election with a letter to the editor titled, “What were you thinking?” (Our editors, not Hanson, wrote the headline.) Hanson asked the Times about its “most stupifying decision … to vote for Martin Beeson. They clearly were confused.”
Hanson then offered what he called a “challenge” to the editorial board. “Reveal who is on the board, and tell us who could take the paper in such a silly direction. I await the answer.”
Even while on vacation, I often make the mistake of perusing the Aspen newspapers’ websites just to make sure the poo-poo hasn’t hit the propellor in Glitter Gulch. That was the case when I saw the headline to Hanson’s letter; I couldn’t resist clicking on it.
After returning to Aspen, I reached out to Hanson with a Facebook email message and told him who comprised the editorial board at the time of Beeson’s endorsement. I assured him that we second-guess our endorsements much more often than our readers do. To Hanson’s credit, he relayed to me that he thought fresh blood was needed and that the Beeson administration’s track record didn’t warrant re-election.
However, no apologies were offered on the Times’ behalf for endorsing Beeson. I expected we would take some flak for leaning right in this left-leaning town, but that goes with the newspaper business. To endorse a candidate simply because he or she has a “D” or “R” next to their name is a disservice to the readers, no matter how leftist this paper appears, and would make our jobs awfully boring and our opinions predictable.
Even so, our endorsement for Beeson was hardly a ringing one, as we devoted a good portion of the backhanded pitch to his Pitkin County office’s concerning track record.
But our biggest fear was that Caloia, who has no experience running a prosecutor’s office, would stumble like another unseasoned district attorney, Colleen Truden, did in 2005. That year, dissatisfied voters kicked out Truden with a recall vote and replaced her with Beeson. And it just so happened that Caloia was one of the key architects in the recall of Truden.
This is all history now. No matter whom you voted for or whom we endorsed, we should all be rooting for Caloia to be a fair-minded district attorney who takes a stand for victims, maintains a professional relationship with local defense lawyers, runs a well-organized office, doesn’t overcharge defendants, knows when to pick her battles and helps keep this valley safe.
Meanwhile, the city of Aspen’s May election season is just around the corner. And The Aspen Times, yet again, will issue endorsements. Should we pick the winning mayoral candidate, does that mean we are in touch with Aspen’s values? If we pick the loser, does that mean we are out of touch? Those questions we won’t entertain.
That’s because when it comes to endorsements, a newspaper’s job, in the simplest sense, is to select the candidate it believes will be the most effective leader. Taking the popular position is not always the best answer – the same can be said for elected officials and how they govern.
For voters, endorsements are just one weapon in the arsenal of information they can use to determine whom to select at the polls. Or they can simply dismiss an endorsement as a smattering of drivel from their local rag. It’s theirs to take or leave – and even criticize on this newspaper’s very pages.
Rick Carroll is managing editor of The Aspen Times. He takes comments, complaints, questions and news tips at firstname.lastname@example.org or directly at 970-429-9141.
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