This week, The Press Democrat Editorial Board will continue a tradition we've had for generations in interviewing candidates for endorsement purposes. It's a time-consuming but fruitful endeavor as we sit down with individuals for 50 minutes to see what makes them tick and whether they would be a good fit for office.
As always, readers will make up their own minds about whether to accept our recommendations for the June 5 primary. But as we see it, newspaper endorsements are even more important in an age where money plays such a prominent role in campaigns and truly independent evaluations of candidates are few and far between.
That said, we want to be upfront about what we are looking for in candidates. Here are some of the things that will be foremost on our minds this year as we talk candidates in local Congressional races:
<BL@199,12,11,10>Get the nation working again: The economy is showing signs of recovery. But for millions of Americans, particularly those on the North Coast, the struggle continues. Unemployment remains at 9.3 percent on Sonoma County and is as high as 16 percent in Lake County. We will be evaluating candidates with an eye toward those who have the best grasp of the region's economic doldrums and the most promising ideas of what role Congress can play in stimulating growth while not creating significant new debt burdens.
<BL@199,12,11,10>Come up with a balanced budget: Any real hope of reducing the deficit rests with a budget plan that includes less spending and increased revenues. But it seems Washington has no stomach for such a sensible approach. The failure last fall of a Congressional "super committee" to come up with a deficit reduction deal came as no surprise. Success will have to come from the hard work of reasonable representatives who understand that the public is tired of games, games like the budget approved by the GOP-led House on Thursday. It calls for slashing spending while cutting taxes for the wealthy. That's a political platform, not a spending plan.
<BL@199,12,11,10>Keep focus on health care. It will be critical for the North Coast to have representatives who have a firm understanding of the health care issues facing their constituents as well as the additional challenges the nation faces if, as many fear, the U.S. Supreme Court tosses out the individual mandate that's central to the health care reform bill passed two years ago. <NO1>We also need people in Congress who understnad that, with the nation's swelling population of citizens 65 and older and increasing life expectancies, Medicare is a fiscal time bomb.<NO>
<BL@199,12,11,10>End the entrenched partisanship. There's no weakness to be found in the pursuit of common ground. The only true sign of a weak mind is the refusal to entertain a contradictory thought, which seems to be the prevailing dogma of D.C.
<BL@199,12,11,10>End the war in Afghanistan: As we noted in our March 25 editorial, "Four years ago, we advocated a renewed focus on Afghanistan, and we supported President Barack Obama's decision to deploy more troops. Now, it's time to bring them home." Let's get it done.
These are some of the key areas of interest for us. Next week, we will discuss the things we'll be looking for in candidates running for state and local office on June 5.