11/05/06 — Whom to choose: Qualified candidates abound, but who should get your vote?

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Whom to choose: Qualified candidates abound, but who should get your vote?

One of the hardest jobs to do in a local election is to determine which candidate is the right one for the job of running your community.

They are all your neighbors and they are all putting themselves out there to take on the task of public office. How do you choose?

There are no absolute formulas for picking the candidate who will best serve his or her community.

Experience matters, but only if it reflects wise and thoughtful service. Put simply, if someone has been in office but has done nothing or very little to improve the future of Wayne County, he or she is a seat filler, not someone who needs another term of office.

Conversely, enthusiasm and fresh ideas are a plus, but only if they are tempered with a realistic analysis of what’s possible. Promises of change that have no basis in fact are little more than hot air. They mean nothing and will result in nothing more than talk. We need to avoid candidates who tell us what we want to hear, not what we need to hear.

Listening to and reading candidates’ answers to questions posed at forums and in interviews can help you choose, too. Criticism of policies without viable alternatives is nothing but an election ploy. Personal attacks are a weak opponent’s way of hiding his or her own shortcomings.

And great speeches mean nothing these days. A well-spoken slick candidate who has little to say will generate applause, but little else when the time comes to take a courageous stand. Listen for substance not style. That’s where real leaders show their stuff.

But let’s say you have done all that. and you are still torn. What else can help you pick your man or woman?

There are many tiebreakers. One of the most often used is party-ticket voting. But these days, voting for someone just because he or she has a party affiliation after his or her name is dangerous.

Choose the issues you think are most important to this community’s future and then see what your candidate has to say about them. That’s how you get someone who represents you, not a party line. In a local election, that really matters.

That distinction will be especially important in the judicial races. Party leanings mean nothing here. It is all about decision-making, Constitutional interpretation and past rulings. Taking the time to find out is critical in those races.

General party policies will be much more important if you are choosing a U.S. House of Representatives candidate now or a president in 2008. See if your candidate’s views match those with which you agree in the national party’s mission statement. You might be surprised.

There are many good choices for office in Wayne County and across North Carolina this year. The trick is doing the research to see which ones will best represent what you want for your county, state and country.

And then, after the research is done, take the next step — take the time to go to ballot box. It really matters.

Published in Editorials on November 5, 2006 12:50 AM