3/6/2006 3:39:00 PM Paper ready to make sense of "silly season"
Now that the "silly season," otherwise known as the 2006 political campaign, is underway, it's a good time to review how the Daily News plans to cover it.
The primary: Since there are almost no contested local offices or issues in the March 21 primary, we will save our comprehensive coverage of candidates for the fall campaign season. We will, of course, report the basics, as far as who's on the ballot, where to vote and results on both the local and state level. And the Daily News is planning a special pre-primary section, produced in cooperation with County Clerk Patty Lycan, that will contain all you need to know before you vote.
We will have pre-primary stories about Second Circuit and Fifth Appellate District judge races, which do narrow their fields in this month's election, as well as local referenda - an annexation question in the Robinson library district, and a tax-extension question in Martin Township.
Also, with Gov. Rod Blagojevich completing his first term in office, we will begin an effort to assess local opinion on his tenure. You will soon be able to visit Daily News Online (www.robdailynews.com) and leave your comments on the governor's service to the state or the impact of his administration on the issues that mean the most to you. We will also be interviewing a variety of local leaders from across the political spectrum to find out how they assess his leadership.
One reason we're taking this step is that Blagojevich was elected with surprisingly strong downstate and southeastern Illinois support - especially for a Democratic Chicago candidate - so we were wondering what those voters thought after four years. Another reason is that we simply thought it was a way to make the statewide political scene a little more relevant to our local readers. I hope you take the opportunity to participate in the online survey.
This is not intended, by the way, as some kind of referendum on the governor, and we're not doing it with any expectations about the results. (I got out of the prediction business when our Wal-Mart survey came back overwhelmingly in favor of a Supercenter.) We should probably do this type of assessment for all governors after their first term.
The general election: That's when we'll be contacting candidates, as we usually do, for detailed information and to find out what they think about the issues. Most candidates will get detailed questionnaires to complete, but some may be interviewed. If you're a candidate, remember that this is your shot at exposure in our news columns - and that people do really look to the newspaper first for pre-election candidate information - so take the time to answer the questions thoughtfully and say what you want people to know about you and what you plan to do in office.
Some candidates have already started giving us bios, position papers and other background information, which may find its way into our coverage as well. But our candidate profiles will primarily be based on the questionnaires and interviews.
By the way, if you're a candidate, you can submit your questionnaire responses by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, as well as by regular mail or just dropping it by our office. We'll also need a photo to go with your profile, and you may either provide one for us (e-mail works for that, too), or schedule a time to come in and have us take one.
As always, we'll follow up the general election with detailed reports of the results and reactions from the candidates, along with precinct-by-precinct rundowns of the key races. and a look at voter turnout.
Letters and columns: Daily News policy prohibits letters and columns that support or oppose specific candidates. Letters and columns can address issues that may be current in the campaign, but can't discuss how this or that candidate would deal with them. This hasn't been a problem for us in recent years, but a reminder is probably appropriate.
Speaking of columns, if Rep. Roger Eddy would happen to have opposition in the general election (or in any general election or primary), we would suspend his opinion-page column for the duration of the campaign. And we will monitor it more closely for "political" content as the election draws near, regardless. And, yes, we would do the same if Democrat Jim Lane had won the 109th District seat and was writing a column for the newspaper.
If you have questions about our coverage or ideas for improving it, please let me know. Let the games begin!