Forums will help inform our endorsements

The Day will soon begin its election-time ritual of providing candidate endorsements on the editorial pages. The newspaper will be making its recommendations in races for state House and Senate, U.S. Congress and Senate, on various referenda and, of course, for president.

In evaluating candidates The Day tried something different this year. In the past candidates for the state legislature were brought into the office individually to meet with the editorial board to discuss policies and politics. As our staff has shrunk, due in large part to the competition for advertising dollars and readers posed by the Internet, it became more difficult to schedule all those individual meetings.

In an effort to turn a negative into a positive, we took our editorial meetings out on the road. And instead of meeting with one candidate at a time, we invited groups of candidates to our forums, held across the region, to discuss and debate the issues. Forums have been held in Groton, New London, Norwich, Old Saybrook and Montville.

For the most part, the forums have been well attended, with audience members provided the chance to submit questions, and with a video recording of the discussions available on theday.com. Two more forums are scheduled for later this month and when they are finished the public will have had the opportunity to hear from all the candidates for state House and Senate seats in this region. We consider it a success.

We will take into account what we learned at those candidate forums, along with the candidates' stated positions on major policies, their experience and their records in making our endorsements. The reason we endorse is to offer a perspective on why we feel one candidate is better suited than another and provide a rationale. These endorsements are just one more tool voters can use in reaching their own decisions, based on their own individual priorities and their assessment of the candidates.

In the races for U.S. Congress and Senate the editorial board has met individually with the major party candidates for Senate and Congress (with the exception of Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon, who has so far not taken us up on our offer to meet). The Day is also co-sponsoring a Senate debate at 7 p.m. tomorrow between McMahon and the Democratic candidate, Rep. Chris Murphy, at the Garde Arts Center in New London. MyTV9 will telecast it live.

On Oct. 29 The Day will co-host a debate at Palmer Auditorium at Connecticut College between the 2nd District congressional candidates, incumbent Democrat Rep. Joe Courtney and Republican challenger Paul Formica, East Lyme first selectman. Also at 7 p.m., it will be aired on Connecticut Public Television (CPTV).

To clear up any misconceptions, I want to point out that the editorial endorsements taken by The Day in no way influence news coverage of the candidates. There is a wall of separation between what I do - offer and publish opinions - and what the newsroom does - objectively provide information about the candidates to the readers. Reporters will not know who we endorsed in a race until they read it in the newspaper like everyone else.

The ultimate goal of all this - the forums, the endorsements, the commentaries and news coverage in the newspaper and online, the reader comments - is to provide vital information to the readers and encourage participation in the Democratic process. We may disagree about politics, but I think we can all agree that it is important for citizens to become informed and to vote.

Paul Choiniere is editorial page editor.

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