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Sarah Gassen: Why, and how, the Star Editorial Board does election endorsements

Sarah Gassen: Why, and how, the Star Editorial Board does election endorsements

From the Star opinion: Endorsements for the City of Tucson's 2019 democratic primary series
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The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.

The Arizona Daily Star Editorial Board typically doesn’t endorse candidates in primary elections. This year is a little different, however, and we’ve made endorsements in the Democratic races for Tucson mayor and City Council in the west-side Ward 1.

Here’s why: The Democratic primary may well decide the final outcome in these races.

Our goal for endorsements is to be useful to voters — maybe you follow our endorsements, maybe you want to see who we endorse so you can vote against that candidate or proposition.

Either way, it’s fine. We just want to be of service.

The Democrats have three solid candidates running for mayor: Randi Dorman, Regina Romero and Steve Farley. Whoever wins the Aug. 27 primary will face Ed Ackerley, who is running as an independent, in the Nov. 5 general election.

Independents typically have a rough time against Republican and Democratic candidates. They don’t have the political party infrastructure to kick into gear to knock on doors, make calls or pay for those ubiquitous campaign signs.

The Republicans aren’t even running a candidate for mayor this year.

So, given the political landscape, it made sense that if the Arizona Daily Star Editorial Board wanted to weigh in on the mayoral race, we needed to do it in the primary.

We have the same reason in Ward 1 — the winner will face Republican candidate Sam Nagy, provided Nagy gets a minimum of 84 voters to write in his name on the Republican primary ballot.

You may wonder why the Arizona Daily Star Editorial Board should endorse in elections at all? It’s a fair question, and one we’ve talked about extensively.

First, the basics: The Editorial Board is comprised of President and Publisher John D’Orlando, Star editor Jill Jorden Spitz, opinion writer Edward Celaya and me, as opinion editor. Our names appear on the Editorial Page daily. Cartoonist David Fitzsimmons is not part of the board.

Our endorsements, and all of our Opinion work, are separate from the Star’s news reporters and editors. They don’t tell us who to endorse, and we don’t tell them what to write (or not write). It’s an important separation, and one all sides take seriously.

Some publications have decided in recent years to cease endorsements, saying it’s not worth upsetting readers who disagree with their picks, or that it’s presumptuous for an Editorial Board to weigh in on what is ultimately the voters’ decision.

We respectfully disagree. We know from letters to the editor and, yes, angry phone calls that readers do get upset with our endorsements — but we see that as a part of the important conversations that should surround every election.

We all need to talk about the candidates running for office, the initiatives and bond issues voters will decide. The Opinion section should be a place for exchanging ideas and viewpoints about what’s important in our community.

I firmly believe that Tucsonans are strong enough to have these conversations, and we are proud to contribute.

Our endorsement decisions boil down to one question: Who among the candidates do we think will best fill the specific job?

Sometimes the answer is obvious, based on our reporting and the interviews with the candidates, but the best case scenario is always that we have a hard decision to make in every race.

We will be making new endorsements for the general election.

And, looking ahead to 2020, I’d appreciate hearing what races you would find most helpful to have endorsements in — Federal? State offices? Local offices? School boards? Judges? Propositions? Please drop me a line.

Sarah Garrecht Gassen is the Star’s Opinion editor. Email her at and follow her on Facebook.

Sarah Garrecht Gassen is the Star’s Opinion editor. Email her at and follow her on Facebook.

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