Column: Candidates are outstanding people from top of list to bottom

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 26, 2002

It’s times like this that we can put an election in perspective.

For all the partisan bickering, the attack ads and the rhetoric, politicians are people, and when we lose one in a tragic fashion like we lost Sen. Paul Wellstone Friday, it’s easy to forget all the bad feelings that surround politics and remember the human element. These are people who serve in or aspire to a demanding, grueling profession, and as much as we resist the idea, they are usually trying to do what’s best for us. That was not true with anybody more than it was with Wellstone.

Talking to politicians in my short career, I’ve come to appreciate that under all the polished finishes, under the public faces, they are commendable people who are committed to public service. The universal sadness felt after we lost Wellstone Friday was a testament that at the end of the day, when the politics are done, our politicians respect and even admire each other, despite ideological differences. I can also say I respect and admire all people who serve in or run for public office.

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That’s why it’s so difficult when we come to this time of year. Candidates for offices locally and statewide are typically outstanding people who are doing their community a tremendous service by offering their lives, basically, for the public good. It’s true for everything from school board members to county commissioners to state representatives and senators.

As a newspaper, we feel it’s one of our duties to provide endorsements for elections. The problem is that by picking one candidate, we must withhold our support from their opponent. This is difficult to do and causes its share of anger and hurt feelings. Although some might not believe it, we at the Tribune have a lot of respect for everybody who has served or wants to serve in public office.

Some people ask why we must do these endorsements. For me, it’s simple: The opinion page of this and any newspaper takes a position on the issues important to the community and the state. An election, when we choose our leaders, is among the most important events in any community. For us to be silent on a matter of such importance, yet offer our opinion on practically everything else, would be unacceptable.

And, if you like strength in numbers, consider that 90 percent of newspapers nationwide make at least some endorsements.

We are not trying to tell people how to vote. Vote as you wish. We are only hoping to provide one more resource for everyone to make decisions. As people who have the chance to personally interview and observe the candidates regularly, we think our perspective is an informed one.

This year, especially, we have tried to be more informational in these editorials, so that even for those who aren’t interested in our opinion or don’t agree, we can provide some distilled information and observations that could be of use. Maybe we can at least raise a point that hadn’t occurred to you.

In many cases, particularly Freeborn County sheriff, District 27 senator and Albert Lea City Council, the decision was difficult. In one case, senator, we have withheld actually making a recommendation. In that case, we honestly came to a stalemate in deciding which candidate to endorse.

We have not endorsed for every office on the ballot. With limited time and resources, we did not think we had the opportunity to completely explore every single race.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t made observations, however, on other races. I’ll share a few of them briefly:

– For First District congressman, newcomer Steve Andreason is making a lot of sense and making a pretty good case for himself to unseat incumbent Rep. Gil Gutknecht. Andreason’s experience in foreign policy on the White House staff makes him a pretty attractive candidate in these times of international uncertainty. He’s attacking Gutknecht’s record in areas where he’s vulnerable, too. He’s earned my respect, and, for what it’s worth, my vote.

– For state auditor, Pat Anderson Awada is an impressive candidate. Her tireless effort to cross the state shows she’d be committed to rural interests, and she has a lot of interesting ideas about the auditor’s office as a &uot;watchdog&uot; for taxpayers.

– For secretary of state, I’m surprised more attention hasn’t been given to the Independence Party’s Dean Alger. He’s an extremely well educated political observer who comes from a non-partisan perspective. For an office that’s supposed to run fair elections, it makes sense to me to elect somebody with no ties to either major party. Alger makes a very effective case for himself.

As always, those who disagree with anything on this page are certainly entitled to their opinion, and we will welcome letters on the election until the end of the day Oct. 31.

Dylan Belden is the Tribune’s managing editor. His column appears Sundays. E-mail him at