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NOTE TO READERS: The Press Democrat will be endorsing candidates again


During the election last fall, The Press Democrat did something it hadn’t done for as long as anyone can remember. We sat out the election without providing a single candidate endorsement on our editorial pages.

As many of you know, the newspaper announced September 2 that Halifax Media Group, our previous owners, had adopted a no-endorsement policy for all of its publications.  While no-endorsement policies have become more common in recent years, this was an abrupt and largely unwelcomed change for Press Democrat readers.  And Sonoma Media Investors, our new local ownership group, agrees.

Endorsements for political candidates will return to the editorial pages of The Press Democrat. In fact, they will return on Tuesday, if timing allows, with our recommendation for filling a vacancy on the Santa Rosa City Council.

For decades, the newspaper placed a high importance on election recommendations. Every election, the Editorial Board spent weeks interviewing candidates for local, state and federal offices. During an election year, it is not uncommon to interview more than 100 candidates. We believe the process works and that the endorsements provide an independent voice and information for local communities.

It’s a responsibility we don’t take lightly. And neither did many of readers who voiced their disappointment when we stopped making endorsements.

“I have not always agreed with you on who to vote for, but I have always cut out your recommendations to put in my pile of reading and studying to do before voting,” wrote one Santa Rosa reader.”

“At least I knew that you had spoken in person, in private with them and made a reasoned decision. I must say I am frustrated that you have lost your voice on this …”

This was typical of the kind of response we received.

But we recognize that not everyone is going to be happy with this reversal in policy. A number of newspapers have made the decision to eliminate political endorsements in hopes that it will enhance their ability to stay neutral on such political decisions.

But is it our belief that just the opposite is true — that disengaging from local elections makes a community newspaper less relevant.

Our editorial pages provide a forum for the expression of a wide variety of perspectives. This includes editorials we offer on a topics ranging from unlighted street lights in Santa Rosa to imaginary girlfriends in Indiana to real and present dangers abroad.

It seems incongruous to us that the one time a newspaper would not offer its opinion is when it comes to making the most important decision a community makes together — choosing elected leaders. How can we be in a position to criticize or praise the actions lawmakers make after declining to take part in the process that saw them elected?

In the Editorial Department, there hangs a letter from an 81-year-old reader thanking us for our ballot recommendations. “I rely on your advice and comments,” she wrote.

This is why we do it. Because in an age when there is so much money in politics and voters are inundated with election material and endorsements from myriad special interest groups — all with their own agendas — we believe people crave a place where they can find even-handed assessments of candidates and credible recommendations. We believe we serve that role. And we believe our input is appreciated now more than ever.

We do not take this responsibility for granted.  We spend 45 minutes to an hour meeting individually with each candidate.  Before the election, Editorial Director Paul Gullixon makes a practice of writing a column or editorial explaining our endorsement process, what we see as the biggest issues confronting our area and what we will be looking for in terms of leadership.

In crafting our endorsement editorials, we always strive to be respectful and honor the effort it takes to run for political office. If there is a strong field of candidates, we make that evident to readers. We also tell them when there is no clear favorite.

In the past week, members of the Editorial Board have been going over the applications of the 17 people who have applied for the Santa Rosa City Council vacancy and trying to meet with many of them in hopes of offering our recommendation on who is best qualified to serve on the City Council. Granted, this is not a public election, but we believe our role is the same — to offer input in the process of selecting a community leader.

Our hope is to make a recommendation on Tuesday, prior to a City Council decision that evening.

We respect the argument that we have no right to “tell” people how to vote. But I would offer that we are not telling people what to do. We make recommendations just as we, as a newspaper, regularly recommend movies, restaurants, books and places to vacation. We do it because we are often in the best position to offer perspective.

We also trust that when readers disagree with us, they will let us know — and we will print their opinions as well.

Finally, we do it because it’s what we do — it’s part of our role as the primary source of local news and opinion for more than 100 years. That’s a role we take seriously and, thanks to our recent return to local ownership, one we plan to continue for generations.

(Bruce Kyse is publisher of The Press Democrat and a member of the Editorial Board.)

27 Responses to “NOTE TO READERS: The Press Democrat will be endorsing candidates again”

  1. Jean Anderson says:

    Please! The PD is a biased newspaper that appeases the blue state bozos who make up the majority of its readership.

    Look at the record. It endorses Democrats, whether left-wing zombies like Woolsey or more moderate candidates.

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  2. Taxpayer says:

    PD-Who should I vote for? I am too stupid to make my own decision.Should I just vote for every name with a “D” next to it?

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  3. Fiscal Conservative says:

    The Santa Rosa Press Democrat:
    Propaganda spewrers for the red collective!

    Own it!

    Thumb up 13 Thumb down 7

  4. michael koepf says:

    “CA politics is now a contest between so-called “moderate” Democrats and progressive Democrats.” John boy, aside from being a dancing fairy in your political noggin, this statement is reminiscent of the wishful, fantasy statements communist party members used to make in the 1930s as Stalin solidified his leadership with bloody purge trials. There’s no difference between “moderate” and “progressive” Democrats in California’s government. Currently, the Democrat party marches and rules in lockstep in the gulag of California.

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  5. ElephanT says:

    John Reed – you are 100% right.

    Just look at the current Board of Supervisors. Carillo and Rabbit are conservatives, I don’t care how they are registered to vote. Zane and McGuire ride the fence. Gorin, the only one elected without PD endorsement is the only one close to being a liberal Democrat.

    I know of one city council in Sonoma County with only one liberal Democrat on board. All thanks to PD spin.

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  6. James Bennett says:

    Oh, I forgot the most timely example…
    do you think true organic environmentalists would PUT FLUORIDE IN OUR WATER SUPPLY?

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  7. James Bennett says:

    John Reed: Can’t let that one pass.
    We didn’t/aren’t witnessing Capitalism/Free Market fail.

    We witnessed/are watching a deliberate orchestrated fascist molestation of a successful model of same.
    It was deliberately crashed.

    The cabal that has mixed corporate interests with our sacred Republic are the same people that our Progressive public servants are working for.

    While we’re on ironic paradoxical misnomers.


    They care about oppression, totalitarian oppression.

    Think leaders that care about the environment would spray us and the ENVIRONMENT with tons of toxic nano-particulate? Think true environmentalists would stand against it? What about being complicit in GMO?
    What about the Gulf?

    We’ve all been brain washed, duped beyond our current comprehension.

    I don’t like labels, but, Progressives are under a spell.

    I wish they’d snap out of it soon, so we can get after the business of looking after OUR well being.

    You might feel at home soon, ’cause China’s comin’ here.

    You’ll see what I mean soon enough.

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  8. John Reed says:

    To my point: the conservative readers who believe that the PD is the house organ for Sonoma County progressives are deeply uninformed about the reality of of contemporary California politics. The political malpractice by the Republican minority of California, in refusing to even consider ending utterly unjustifiable multi-billion dollar annual tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy (most of which were extracted as the price of prior year budget deals) has so damaged the brand that California Republicans have been send to the child’s table for their lack of responsiblity in governing.

    CA politics is now a contest between so-called “moderate” Democrats and progressive Democrats. The Republicans forfeited their natural place as the alternative to the governing party through ideological absolutism and an annoying and tone-deaf political style. So, yes, the PD will endorse Democrats, because anyone who wants to play in CA politics has to do it under the Democrat label. Anyone who is actually paying attention will see that the PD consistently supports business Democrats(AKA moderate Republicans), not progressives.

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  9. John Reed says:

    Let’s see if today’s comment gets posted. Apparently, publicly denigrating a woman’s appearance or accusing of a public official of treason for making land-use decisions passes the WSC screen, but a straight-up defense of socialism as an alternative to social darwinist capitalism doesn’t make the cut. Whatever.

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  10. Um... says:

    I’ve ready Laura’s accusations about police and council cozying up on about 10 different articles between the PD website and WSC website. Too bad everything she has ever said turns out to be not true!

    Kay, council said they’d revisit the issue Tuesday only if they didn’t decide on someone. Coucil didn’t lie. And the PD wasn’t in on it… They did make a recommendation, but just didn’t have a chance to publish it since council made their decision quickly.

    And it was a great pick! So get off it.

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  11. Jean Anderson says:

    I’ll save PD readers time and effort.

    PD endorses all Democrats for the next 20 years. Conservatives, people with common sense, and the fiscally responsible need not apply.

    To quote Al Pacino from Scent of a Woman, “What kind of show are you guys putting on here?”

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  12. Kay Tokerud says:

    Apparently the PD was also in on the fixing of the councilmember selection. They said they would be endorsing a candidate on Tuesday but the selection was made on Monday night. Add that to the council indicating that they would meet on this selection again on Tuesday night a time when members of the public could have weighed in. The progressive majority is back. The whole thing was planned in advance to ensure that another progressive would get in. No one believed (with any sense) that Erin Carlstrom wasn’t a progressive by the way. This is a call to action from anyone who values their rights.

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  13. Reality Check says:

    Is there evidence that a PD endorsement is a significant help in winning an election? Are there any candidates who were “made” by the PD. That is, were there previously unknown candidates with no chance of winning, but it all turned around when . . . . .

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  14. Laura Gonzalez says:

    @Dave Rogers
    “Erin has to come to terms with them” (public safety)?

    Public safety endorsed her after she and Ernesto “reached across the aisle.” That was his gift to her, what will be her gift to him? Hans Dippel?

    Are you a member of either union? Because you certainly do think that people need to “get with program” by supporting who public safety has chosen. And even you seem to know that Dippel’s the guy. Talk about “things that make you go hmmmmmm…”

    It’s hard to not think that the fix is in. In this case, the lead seems to be taken by public safety union leadership, who met with *SOME* (not all) of the applicants. The word is they didn’t like Robin Swinth, apparently for not being a whole-hearted fan of public safety unions and their pensions. They let the council know that their choice was Hans Dippel.

    Some say that they are the king-makers this time around (Dave Rogers sure seems to think so), it sounds like that’s how it’s heading. This is outrageous and destructive of city fairness and process. Our “business majority” on the Council seem to take their marching orders from a select few. People should plan to voice their consternation over this at the meeting.

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  15. Dan Drummond Sr says:

    I appreciate the return of the Press Democrat endorsements. Another set of local endorsements is always welcome for comparison with the political party endorsements, Sonoma County Conservation Action, Sonoma County Taxpayers Association, etc.
    My opponent called me a cream puff. Well, I rushed out and got the baker’s union to endorse me. ~Claiborne Pell

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  16. Grapevines says:

    The Pressless Damnocrat endorsing candidates just adds justification to what I recommend to everyone I encounter.

    “See who the PD is recommending and go the other way”

    It’s a can’t lose proposition.

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  17. James Bennett says:

    Many thought the original function of a newspaper was to keep government honest.
    Be an instrument of transparency.

    Public-Private Partnerships, Stake-holders. Government in the land aquisition business, telling us what we can do with ours.

    Lots of things changed while we weren’t lookin’, huh?

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  18. michael koepf says:

    Who does Kyse think he’s fooling? Rest assured that PD endorsements will always and exclusively be for the most progressive and liberal candidates. It’s a given: all Democrats will be endorsed. Republicans and Independents need not apply.

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  19. BigDogatPlay says:

    Your reporting in the recent election cycle was little more than thinly veiled advocacy for certain candidates. It’s refreshing, then, that the PeeDee under it’s new ownership will give up the charade and get back to open advocacy. I’ll expect it in both the news and OpEd sections and be deeply surprised to not see it in both places.

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  20. James Bennett says:

    Yeah, there’s some…”news”.

    Thumb up 25 Thumb down 8

  21. bill says:

    This practice of a news source endorsing candidates runs counter to the idea of a free press. It also opens doors for the loss of transparency.

    A democratic society should not play favorites and let the people choose based on their own ideas of who they want for elected office with out being swayed by powerful interests.

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  22. Good news says:

    I am very happy to hear the PD will be endorsing candidates again. I respect their views and rely on their ballot recommendations as well as candidate endorsements. I usually agree 85% of the time with their recommendations.

    Sadly for Elephant, the world is not a progressive world. I find the progressives too far left just as you find the Tea Party too far right. I am a strong Democratic and I lean right in the middle, something that is not good enough for you or the Sonoma County Democratic party because I am not a progressive. Your loss.

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  23. Real Truth says:

    A one-paper town whose sole newspaper purports to provide objective reporting has no business making endorsements. It would be different if we had a conservative paper, a liberal paper, a libertarian paper, etc., like they do in much of Europe. But we don’t, and the PD’s articles always reflect your endorsements and biases. You are doing our community a grave disservice.

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  24. Dave Rogers says:

    @Laura Gonzalez come on get real! It is the Council Members voting not the Police and Fire Unions. Erin is a Progressive and has come to peace with them. It will do Gary Wysocky some good to come around and get with the program and instead of fighting with his city employees to get behind them. He will do the right thing I hope and support Hans it is the best way for him to make peace with the Firefighters and he knows it. Hans is a smart guy that gets the important issues.

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  25. David J. Spencer says:


    Sonoma Media Investors, the P.D.’s new owners, wants to determine the outcome of future elections.

    The trick will be to determine its agenda, then the P.D. reader will know what the endorsement editorials will say.

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  26. Laura Gonzalez says:

    Not to worry about the SR CIty Council appointments, Public Safety has apparently taken care of that for you. After meeting with a *few* applicants (anyone else besides Dippel and Swinth?), they have let the Council know that they back Dippel. You should follow suit.

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  27. Elephant says:

    For years, I would tell people that if they wanted to vote in a manner that would most benefit the real needs of the people, they should look at the PD’s recommendations… and vote the opposite.

    Although Sonoma County is categorized as a very Democrat liberal-leaning area, thanks to PD recommendations, most of our city councils as well as our Board of Supervisors have majorities that are right of center. They have made the term “Progressive” to be perceived as anti-everything when that is far from the truth. And they have made the term “pro-business” to be perceived as messiahs to save us all. Once again, far from the truth.

    For proof, just look at the many major problems that we face in Sonoma County that stem from special interest serving decisions made by the people that the PD helped get elected to the Board of Supervisors. They include the horrid condition of our county roads, the very real water supply problems that we face, the destruction of the Russian River by gravel mining, the debacle of the Central Waste Disposal site on Mecham Road, tens of millions of dollars of wasted open space money, and let’s not forget the entire county pension extravaganza.

    Some of us know how Darius Anderson and Doug Bosco have twisted California politics and greatly contributed to its many politically originated problems. The business practices of Sandy Weill and Gary Nelson have helped make the rich richer and everybody else poorer. If you think that the new PD political direction is going to be straight down the middle, you are sadly mistaken.

    Remember, the truth is out there. You just have to look in the light for it and not in the shadows.

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