Editor’s Notebook: Election coverage standards/rules

It’s election time in Seal Beach and the local campaigns are starting to take shape. Monday of this week was the first day during which candidates could pull papers. They have until Aug. 8 to file for the Nov. 4 election. As early as Monday’s close of business at Seal Beach City Hall, five individuals had filed their nomination papers for city council seats.

In District One (Old Town and Surfside), the candidates who have filed include Ellery Deaton, Charles Antos and Tom Quinn. In District Three (Marina Hill, The Coves, Bridgeport, and Heron Pointe.), it’s Mike Veripapa and Scott Weir.

Seal Beach is a vote by district city, in which residents of each district only vote for candidates running in their district. This is opposed to an “at large” city, such as Dana Point, in which residents vote for candidates in all of the districts. It is debatable which of the two systems are more democratic and fair, however, either way, local, small town elections seem to elicit as much ferver as do larger political races such as for the U.S. presidency, or State and county level races. It sometimes seems even more so. Thus goes the saying: “God made the world and The Devil made small towns.”

In my experience, Seal Beach is no exception. When election time comes around, the gloves often come off. I have heard numerous rumors throughout the years of stolen campaign signs, unproven accusations of being “in bed with developers,” or comparing the relative value of someone’s integrity based on whether or not they are a property owner or a renter. Welcome to Seal Beach, where sun hits the water and the mountains meet the sand, and where the mud gets slung.

For the past few elections during which I’ve been the editor of the Sun, we’ve implemented certain standards and rules that are intended not only for us to be able to duck the mud, but also provide as even a playing field for all candidates as we can possibly provide. That tradition will continue during this election.

In order to provide as much fairness as possible The Sun, as it has in the past, will run a series of questions to and answers from the candidates each week with the start and finish dates as well as the questions and maximum word counts to be announced after the Aug. 8 filing deadline. Questions will be asked one at a time, once a week and announced in The Sun so that each candidate has an equal chance to receive the questions at the same time. Readers will be asked to submit potential questions for the candidates each week.

The first questionnaire will be the publication of a statement from each of the candidates – not necessarily their official candidate’s statement on the ballot, so that we can ensure an equal maximum word count.

The Sun will not endorse any candidate nor any items or measure on the ballot. No candidates will be allowed to have any letters to the editor published until after the election. Likewise, The Sun will not publish letters from any readers endorsing any candidate, item or measure on the ballot.

At the same time, The Sun will continue to publish any “bonafide” news story that may or may not include someone who is either in office or running for it. This may also include publishing information provided by any current public figure announcing their candidacy.

If there are questions regarding these standards and rules for our election coverage, please contact The Sun Newspaper office at (562) 430-7555, the editor at dennis@sunnews.org, or the publisher at publisher @sunnews.org. In the meantime, good luck to all the candidates and may the best one win.

Dennis Kaiser is the editor of The Sun Newspaper and the author of a regular column titled: “Kaiser On A Roll.”