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Editorial: Election-time homework

July 08, 1998

When the smoke cleared and the deadline to file passed on Monday at 9 p.m., there were 29 candidates filed for Washington County Commissioner. It's the greatest outpouring of candidates since 1974, when 38 ran for a seat on the county board.

Then as now, there were some open seats and some dissatisfaction with some of the things the incumbents had done. Planning and zoning was a new concept for this county then, and was just as controversial, in its own way, as the water-and-sewer debt problems the current board has faced.

There'll be time to debate that and other issues as the campaign proceeds. Now is the time for the candidates, the voters and those who control access to the local airwaves to agree on a few ground rules to make this campaign one in which we actually learn something about the people who want to govern Washington County.

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To the candidates, especially those running for the first time, it is not enough to run against the incumbents. It's easy to criticize those who've been in office, but we need to hear your proposed solutions to the county's problems.

And we need to know why you're qualified to do the job. Have you ever had a position - volunteer or paid - where you've had to raise money or persuade people to do something? Have you handled something other than a household budget, or supervised more than a few employees? Those are skills the next board of commissioners will need.

As for the voters, they need to educate themselves, in part by persuading those in charge of the local cable TV system to tape and broadcast candidate forums, so that those who work the night shift or have small children to care for aren't denied the chance to see candidates in action.

And here's the toughest part: Yes, everyone's life is busy these days, and many will tempted not to do a lot of homework and just vote for the person whose name is most familiar. If you determine that that person is the most qualified candidate, fine. But please decide now that you'll spend the next few months looking hard at the candidates to find the substance beneath the surface.

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