EDITORIAL: This is not enough

WARNING! THE STORY on Page 1 of this issue about the candidates for the Democratic nomination in the race for the seat in the United State Congress from the 19th District of the State of New York is unfair and possibly misleading.

If you develop a rash, rapid heartbeat or a sudden desire to dispose of this newspaper in an irresponsible manner, turn the page immediately and wait until the symptoms pass.

Fake news? No, just a note of caution that the story, like any other single news report cannot tell you all you need to know. Don’t blame the candidates or their staffs. So far, anyway, they want you to know what the candidates are doing and saying. But with seven people to choose from, each of whom is an accomplished individual with ties to the 19th district, rank and file Democrats have a lot to think about ahead of the party’s primary June 26.

This guilty plea to the charge of unfair and misleading news stems from information overload. And yet here we are tempting readers to make judgments about the candidates based on snippets of what they shared with an auditorium of Democrats at a debate in Hudson this week.

By the agreed upon rules of the debate each candidate had only one minute to respond to questions and statements from the moderator and their opponents. To extract bits and pieces from those sound bites amounts to sound nibbles. Context disappears. Forget about nuance. You can use the information but, as with every news source, use it cautiously and with skepticism.

Most of these candidates have been crossing paths with each other since last year so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that at times it sounded like they were finishing each other’s sentences. And still they have distinctly different styles, life stories and skills. They will need all the assets they possess plus a lot of money if they expect to beat incumbent Republican Congressman John Faso and regain a seat Democrats have not held in nearly a decade.

Democrats hold a slight plurality in the 11-county district, but that advantage disappears with the substantial number of voters who register as either as Conservative or don’t choose a party but who vote Republican. And no matter how eager the Democratic base is to cast votes that send President Trump a message, if Democrats underestimate the popularity of the president or the political skills of John Faso, voters will send Mr. Faso back to Washington.

Six of the counties in this congressional district are what the website Ballotopedia (https://ballotpedia.org) calls “pivot counties,” which means they voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 but went for Trump in 2017. One early warning signal is that only one of the seven Democratic hopefuls comes from the western side of the district where counties are either solidly Republican or fall into that pivot category.

This bumper crop of eager new Democratic candidates reflects a national phenomenon and speaks to the faith the party has that there will be a “blue wave” in the November general election. In some ways that type of outcome would echo the Tea Party surge from the right a few years back.

None of the seven Democratic candidates for the 19th District this year is talking much about positions that would appeal directly to the voters who aren’t enrolled in any party and who often decide who gets elected. That will likely change once one of the candidates wins the nomination.

And then there are the wildcards in the race: minor party and independent candidates who can’t win but who might draw enough votes to affect the outcome.

All of these factors as well as the money a candidate is able to raise should play a part in the decision Democrats make.

Our policy at The Columbia Paper is not to endorse candidates in primaries precisely because in most cases we don’t give those races the coverage we need to make an informed decision. This year is no different. We’ve made a small contribution to what readers know and provided web addresses for the candidates. Now you Democrats have your work cut out for you.

It’s easy to find out more. If you live in Columbia County, chances are some candidates may already have knocked on your door or will do so soon. Learn more. Base your choice on multiple sources. Act like the future depends on what you know, because it does.

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