Political letters to the editor: Keep it clean, come out fightingThe signs are up across the town. The primary ballots have arrived. The candidates are hitting the streets knocking on doors and waving signs.
As the candidates work, the citizens begin to take interest, slowly at first. Maybe you catch yourself daydreaming at a stoplight, wondering what would tempt someone to wave a sign at passing cars for two hours a day. Maybe a candidate has shown up at your doorstep during dinner, and you were less than cordial. Perhaps you stopped and really looked at a campaign sign for the first time, and considered the effort involved in building, placing and removing hundreds of those suckers across the city.
Sometimes, our interest blooms into anger or righteousness. Some people pick up a pen and write the Letter to the Editor. Others pick up a phone and call a friend to debate so-and-so’s policy on growth or the environment. Often, our remarks can be quite biting and deeply personal.
Let’s take a Letter to the Editor, for example. A letter is published in the Journal on Wednesday and by Friday; nearly 20,000 people have a chance to read it. That packs quite a punch. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that all of our candidates in Lake Stevens are people damn good people.
Although I will have to choose eventually, I’d proudly take any candidate running for any position in Lake Stevens. Think about it. These people are not out there marching around for hours each day answering our questions and waving signs for personal enjoyment. They don’t want to get elected to City Council so they can see their face on TV. (Even if Council meetings were televised, judging by the average attendance no one would watch anyway). These people are certainly not out for money. There’s non to be had. If anything, a City Council/Mayor sacrifices income potential to serve in the elected position.
My point is this. Every candidate we have is running for office because they want to do a favor for us. They want to help make sure our city is managed in the best way possible, and they are willing to sacrifice time, money and personal and family commitments in order to complete this ‘favor’. That’s right, politicians have families too. And their families read the Journal and the Herald just like our families do.
Having said all that, I’ve got a favor to ask Off the Record readers. Take the time to write a Letter to the Editor. Send it to the Journal or the Herald. You could even send it to me, and I’ll run it here and on the blog. At the same time, I must urge you to keep it positive. Tell us about why you like the candidate you’ve chosen to back. Tell us about his/her strong points and accomplishments. Please do not tell us why you don’t like your candidate’s opponent. It’s just not necessary, and it comes off as mean, transparent, spiteful and juvenile. Remember, anything you write about these folks who are asking to work with and for us towards creating a better Lake Stevens get the paper as well.
When I was young, I’d pick up the paper after Mom and Dad had finished, and I’d rifle through box scores and game summaries before making it to the news and opinion sections but I’d read these as well. My parents never ran for office, but I can only imagine how hurtful it would’ve been to see some guy I’ve never heard of write a letter about why my mom/dad is a bad person and not qualified for elected position. So let’s all do our part. Let’s touch gloves, keep it clean, but still come out fighting.
Kevin Hulten is the former Managing Editor of the Lake Stevens Journal and maintains the Off the Record blog at www.lakestevensjournal.com. Email Kevin at firstname.lastname@example.org or give him a call at 425-350-3166.