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21 Feb 2018

A Note From the Editor: Thoughts on Local Elections—and Why We Don't Do Endorsements (For Now)

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It’s once again (or still?) election season in the Coachella Valley—well, it is in at least part of the Coachella Valley.

That whacky central-valley city of 18,000 people, Rancho Mirage, likes to do things its own way—and so it holds its city election at a time (April 10) and via a method (mail) that are different from every other city in the valley. Speaking of doing things one’s own way, it’s also worth noting that Rancho Mirage is the biggest opponent of the proposed valley-wide CV Link pathway, and that the city just declined to participate in a valley-wide traffic-signal synchronization project.

It’s kind of like this: Rancho Mirage city government is the metaphoric equivalent of an old man yelling at people (in this case, the rest of the valley) to get off his damn lawn!

I mention all of this for two reasons: One, to highlight the fantastic coverage of this year’s Rancho Mirage city election by Kevin Fitzgerald, which can be found here and here; and two, to talk about endorsements.

Over the years, we’ve been occasionally asked why we don’t do endorsements in political races. At first, we didn’t do endorsements because the Independent was such a new publication that endorsements would have caused more harm than good: Why would people care what an unestablished and unknown publication thought about a political race?

Today, more than five years into our existence, the Independent is known and fairly well-established—but we still don’t do endorsements, because it takes a lot of time and effort to do endorsements right. And we don’t do things here at the Independent unless we can do them right.

Newspaper endorsements can make a difference. In city elections, races can often be decided by hundreds or just dozens of votes—and there are definitely voters who use newspaper endorsements as a de facto voting guide. We distribute 16,000 copies of the Independent; if we published an endorsement, and just 1 percent of those copies somehow swayed a voter … that’s 160 votes. And we’re not even counting the online edition.

However, at this time, there aren’t enough Independent staff members or contributors talking to enough candidates for me to feel comfortable putting the weight of the newspaper’s name behind a candidate. That’s not to say this won’t change in the future—and that’s not to say we aren’t tempted to issue endorsements at times … like, for example, when a certain city government keeps metaphorically yelling at everyone to get off their damn lawn! But for now, the Independent is staying out of the endorsements game.

As always, thanks for reading—and please drop me a line if you have any questions or comments. Also: Be sure to pick up a copy of our March 2018 print edition, hitting the streets of the Coachella Valley this week and early next week.

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