Almost 150 years ago, Edward Willis Scripps founded The Cleveland Press, which he sold for a penny. His philosophy, as espoused in the first edition, was simple:
Be neither "Republican, not Democrat, not Greenback, not Prohibitionist ... We simply intend to support good men and condemn bad ones, no matter what party they belong to."
The editorial board of TCPalm and Treasure Coast Newspapers, a descendant of the Press, continues to take such independence to heart.
It’s why we’ve interviewed candidates from all parties in our effort to better inform readers of folks running for office on the Treasure Coast.
We try to go into each meeting and subsequent discussion of candidates with our political blinders on. Instead of following partisan ideology, we try to focus on nonpartisan candidate qualifications such as leadership and experience; safeguarding taxpayer money; balancing economic growth and quality of life; the Indian River Lagoon and environmental policy; transportation and infrastructure; and ethics and commitment to transparency.
Such a formula has worked well. Every once in a while, we have editorial board debates over candidates and find reaching consensus difficult; sometimes strong disagreements persist, for any number of reasons.
This year, our greatest challenges came in discussions regarding some state legislative races. After research, debate and reflection, we were unable to find consensus all our voting members could accept.
In the end, after interviewing candidates — you can watch them online at tinyurl.com/TCPhousevideos — we decided to not recommend in legislative races this year.
Legislative races have become increasingly partisan. In more local races, partisanship is a relative non-issue. There’s no political way to pave a pothole or teach phonics.
Too many folks who want to serve in Tallahassee or Washington repeat partisan red or blue talking points. Some seem to have more loyalty to their parties than to their diverse constituencies.
Looking back over 10 years, it’s not so surprising. In 2010, we were so concerned about political gamesmanship, where party leaders, as opposed to local residents, decided elections, we published a front-page editorial.
Our hook was the congressional race in St. Lucie, Martin and Palm Beach counties featuring Republican Allen West and Democrat Patrick Murphy.
Political kingmakers had brought West and Murphy to the Treasure Coast from South Florida. In West’s case, Tom Rooney, the southern Treasure Coast's U.S. representative, headed west to run, presumably for the good of the party. Murphy was a first-time candidate.
In the GOP primary, West took down Bob Crowder, a moderate Republican and longtime Martin County sheriff, in shocking fashion. Murphy, however, defeated West in a close race and became the last Democrat in the seat.
“Polls have shown that the vast majority of Americans do not think like the few narrow-minded extremists controlling either political party,” we wrote at the time. “Most party members and independents think for themselves; few pledge loyalty to the entire platform of any party. Regardless, the staggering sums of money spent on carefully scripted campaigns funded by special interests puts candidates who truly would represent all of us at a huge disadvantage. …
“This editorial board believes past performance is a good barometer of future success. That loyalty to community trumps loyalty to party. That pragmatism trumps blind allegiance to any ideal. That a firm handshake with an eye-to-eye exchange displays values. That character counts.
“We believe, as the founders did, that the people, rich and poor, not simply party power brokers, consultants, high-dollar donors or super PACs should pick their representatives.”
At least this year's candidates are local. But instead of recommending legislative candidates, our editorial board will report on what we see as candidate pros and cons.
In the Treasure Coast’s gerrymandered districts, Republicans have a great advantage in not only registration, but financing. Two years ago, we opted not to even interview in three races we felt would not be competitive. This year we planned to speak with all candidates, in part to provide videos helpful to our audience.
Readers always are the final arbiters. After all, as we said in 2010:
“This nation has flourished for almost 225 years since its Constitution, changed only 27 times, was adopted. The founders got it right. The power in House seats ... should rest with the people.”
Editorials published by TCPalm/Treasure Coast Newspapers are decided collectively by its editorial board. To respond to this editorial with a letter to the editor, email up to 300 words to TCNLetters@TCPalm.com.
This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast Newspapers: House races: Excessive partisanship leads to key decision | Our View