Today, The Pilot begins its annual list of editorial endorsements for this year’s election cycle. If you look to your left, you’ll see the endorsement for State Senate District 25. Five more will follow in successive editions, concluding on Oct. 28.

For 2020, The Pilot had a list of 18 candidates for public offices that include: U.S. House Districts 8 and 9; State Senate District 25; State House District 52; Moore Board of Commissioners District 2; and Moore County Board of Education Districts 1, 2, 4 and 5.

We began these interviews on Sept. 28; Pilot Publisher David Woronoff and I would have started them sooner, but we each had to squeeze in some vacation time.

For some of you, these endorsements can’t come soon enough. But there are others of you who don’t see the point. Allow me a moment to explain.

Absentee, or mail-in, voting in North Carolina began Sept. 4, and the early demand has set all kinds of records in the state. As of Aug. 31, boards of elections across North Carolina already had 560,000 requests for ballots.

In Moore County, an initial batch of 6,000 ballots went out to fulfill requests. That number is now over 12,000, and almost half have already come back filled out. How off the charts is that? In 2016, Moore County received just under 2,600 mailed-in votes for the presidential election.

Sure the coronavirus is greatly impacting how people vote; more people are choosing to vote by mail to avoid risking exposure.

With this many people voting early, I’ve had a number of requests to begin our endorsements earlier to help educate these early voters about the candidates. While we certainly understand where they’re coming from, we didn’t want to begin our endorsements too soon, lest folks voting during the early voting period — much less Election Day — forget our views on the candidates. So we’ve tried to split the difference, beginning them a month before the election.

Newspapers traditionally have done candidate endorsements. They serve two purposes. There is the obvious: a newspaper owner’s expression of whom they support. As large chains have consolidated into massive chains over the last few years, you are frequently seeing fewer endorsements, mostly because the corporate overseers don’t want to “upset” readers with these views.

But endorsements also serve a more significant role. Newspapers frequently have far better access to the candidates than the average voter. Newspapers can ask more probative questions than candidates want to answer. Newspapers also can distill facts from campaign fiction and weigh all aspects of what a candidate brings to the table for voters.

Here at The Pilot, we look at a candidate’s life experience, professional experience, their viewpoints on critical issues, their knowledge of the community and its needs.

What carries little weight with us is a candidate’s political affiliation. No one gets a free pass by virtue of being a Democrat or Republican, and The Pilot’s endorsements frequently reflect that. We are consummate ticket splitters.

In general, we found this year’s candidates to be reasonable and — dare I say — likeable. That has not always been the case over the years, and some candidates have left us in a huff when the conversation didn’t quite go so well. That did not happen this year and, after each interview, every candidate left with our thanks for offering themselves for public service. Whatever the position, elective office requires a great deal of time if you do the job correctly.

We do not expect you to vote for a candidate just because we say so; you also have an obligation to be an informed voter and seek a full and balanced view of a candidate.

But we also hope you consider our perspectives. We’ve seen a lot of candidates over the years and have a pretty good understanding of what success looks like.

And whether you agree or disagree with our endorsements, please vote — whether early by mail, at an early voting center or on Election Day. Because elections have consequences, up and down the ballot.

Contact editor John Nagy at (910) 693-2507 or john@thepilot.com.

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