Vote is yours, but we’re happy to help

Published 12:18 am Wednesday, July 25, 2007

You can learn a lot about Adams County by spending some time talking to those who want to change it.

This year, the slate of folks seeking county office is large. The official count falls just below 50, and several races have five candidates each; one has six.

Most everyone agrees this is the biggest race in memorable history. The candidates are working hard. They walk the streets, shake hands, attend the forums and fork over the advertising dollars. They look tired, but they now know campaigning is no easy job.

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But this time, the voters have the hardest job of all.

With so many candidates, taking your pick isn’t easy. Several races offer several qualified choices. A few races contain a few duds.

Most voters have had the chance to shake at least one hand, read a flier or two and ask a few questions of each candidate. But in most cases, that’s hardly enough information to make an informed decision.

Our county needs honest, intelligent, caring and informed leaders, and right now, the pressure is on the voters, not the candidates.

You have to make the right choice.

Ideally every voter would be able to sit down with each candidate and spend some time just getting to know the person. But you folks have jobs, children and lives and you simply can’t personally question every candidate in the field.

That’s where your handy dandy community newspaper enters the picture.

The staff of The Natchez Democrat has been working for weeks to report and write stories to introduce you to the candidates. We’ve published submitted political announcements, and this coming Sunday we’ll publish a special election section to give you the basic facts on each candidate.

So far the information has been just the facts and nothing but the facts.

But sometimes the facts aren’t enough. Sometimes valued opinions can go a long way.

So this week the editorial board of this newspaper — Publisher Kevin Cooper and myself — has spent some time with the candidates.

We’ve blocked off nearly all day every day this week to spend 30 minutes to an hour with each candidate in the circuit clerk’s race, the sheriff’s race and each county supervisor race.

We’ve told the guys — they are all guys — that we aren’t quoting them and they are off the record. And we’ve just talked.

Mostly, Kevin and I listen. We’ve heard about taxes, recreation and schools. We’re learning why they want to run, what they want to do and whether or not they think they’ll win.

So far, I’ve been impressed with the candidness of every candidate. The men seem, for the most part, to be dropping the political facade and just talking.

And though I’m getting quite tired of seeing the walls in our building’s conference room, I am enjoying learning about these men and our county.

We’ll continue our interviews until Friday, and then we’ll make a few picks of our own.

Starting at the end of next week, the staff editorial — upper left of this page in the print edition — will contain the editorial board’s endorsements for these races. We’ll share the results of our interviews with you and tell you who is best for the job, and why.

Obviously, you don’t have to listen to us. Our opinions are simply that, opinions. And as one candidate told us today, a newspaper endorsement can be the kiss of death for a campaign.

But for those of you who may not have the time to sit face-to-face with each candidate and ask the important questions, we hope we can fill in some of the blanks.

Our decision will be based purely on the issues, and I suspect we’ll make some unpopular choices. But if our choices get people talking about the issues and thinking about the race, all the time will be well spent.

Ultimately the vote is yours. But we’d be happy to help along the way.

Julie Finley is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551.