Alaska editorial: The candidates should speak for themselves

Posted: Tuesday, October 31, 2006

This editorial appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:

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Candidates would do well to remember something the state's most recent voter registration figures illustrate: Most Alaskans who vote don't declare any political party.

As the partisan wrangling, from the congressional to gubernatorial races, heats up, it's easy to see why.

Don't get us wrong: We applaud those who read a party platform, find that it speaks to them, and put their energy into electing candidates who they believe will lead us down the correct path - that's political activism at its best, and Alaska is blessed with many good hearts following that tradition.

Nevertheless, then there are the others; we tire of those for whom partisanship is the end in itself, rather than a means to do good.

The Democrats and Republicans combined, according to Alaska Division of Elections figures reported by The Associated Press, lost about 8,000 voters since 2004. That's the bulk of the loss in voter registration of 9,300 overall.

On the other hand, there are now 1,800 more voters who call themselves "nonpartisan," at least as far as voter registration goes, than there were two years ago.

The AP notes that this doesn't mean most Alaskans don't pick one of the parties when they go into the voting booth and, a look at our track record will show that as a state (and a city) we tend to elect Republicans. We think this "nonpartisan" streak indicates an unwillingness to be pigeonholed, and an unwillingness to identify ourselves with a predefined party line. Alaskans are willing to listen to anyone's view, no matter what the philosophical label, and are as likely as any to vote based on talking to an individual who talks common sense.

We think it behooves the candidates - and their supporters - to talk to us about the issues instead of about what's wrong with the other candidates.

And we'd like it a lot if they quit polling us to find out what they ought to say when they talk to us. Candidates, we don't want you to tell us what you think we want to hear; we don't want to have to look up what you've said to other groups to see whether you talk out of both sides of your mouth depending on the audience.

We'd like to hear what you think.

If your thoughts align with your party's, that's worth knowing; but for most Alaskans, it's the person, and the ideas, that matter. Once you get into office, you'll be making a variety of decisions with only your inner compass to guide you. Might as well use it during the campaign, too.

As the late Oral Freeman once shared, you might be surprised by the outcome - you might even get the boot when you act on what you thought and the voters disagreed, as he did, once - but voters will know what they're getting and you won't have to remember your position. You'll just have to be true to yourself.

That's why local politics - at once the most powerful and possibly least respected level of politics - is such a refreshing change. It's just the candidates and the folks with no partisan politics to interfere.

Here's hoping, in these last days of campaigning, that our gubernatorial candidates get back to the ideas that originally drew them into politics, and talk with us about our common future.

There is no candidate running for governor who doesn't care deeply about Alaska. In this coming week, let's get to know the real candidate, and make our decisions in the voting booth accordingly.

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