Local election races and paid letters

Monday, July 16, 2018

While much attention is focused on Europe, Donald Trump, NATO and Washington, D.C., there are many local matters to tend to.

The country seems to be clinging to personalities in news, whether it be the president, the leaders of Germany or England, and even FBI agents embroiled in scandals.

But do you know who might be your next prosecutor or judge in the county where you live? Do you know why they are running, what credentials they have and what their core beliefs are?

There are many people running for important local elected office and we barely know them.

While they may attend local forums, some of which the newspaper has covered, many of our local candidates, some seeking positions of $75,000 annually and up, are struggling at introducing themselves to the public. It almost seems like local campaigns are built entirely around yard signs.

Our local primary elections are coming up in August, and locally that means many races will be wrapped by the end of Aug. 7. The Southeast Missourian is digging into news coverage of our local races, which include several county office races, as well as judge positions. We will write stories about the local contested primary races in the coming weeks. There is also a heated ballot measure to induct the so-called right-to-work policy into law.

You won't find stories about these races from The Washington Post or Fox News. We haven't seen much coverage on local TV stations. Your local newspaper is the public's go-to source for information about elections and races that hit closest to home.

As we head into the teeth of the August primary, we'd like to remind you one way the Southeast Missourian allows campaigns to spread the word about their positions and endorsements is our Paid Election Letters policy. It's also a way for regular readers to support candidates they feel strongly about.

As with all paid content -- and all opinion content, frankly -- paid letters should be consumed with eyes wide open. We require the letter writers to state their names and place of residency. But unlike talking-point ads that are costly to produce and yard signs that say nothing at all, a letter is a way to get into more detail about what a candidate believes of certain topics and why. And it allows supporters to explain in detail why they are putting their names behind a candidate. We regularly run our Paid Election Letters policy in the newspaper for transparency purposes, because it's worth reminding our readers and our candidates of how the tool works. You're sure to see more of the paid letters in the weeks ahead.

Here is our paid election letter policy:

"All letters of endorsement of or in opposition to candidates, as well as letters from or about candidates, will be published as Paid Election Letters and are subject to a fee of $25 for up to 100 words, plus an additional 50 cents per word beyond 100. Paid Election Letters are published on Mondays and Thursdays in the Southeast Missourian. All Paid Election letters received by 5 p.m. Tuesday will be published the following Thursday. All Paid Election letters received by 5 p.m. Thursday will be published the following Monday. To ensure publication, all last-minute Paid Election Letters must be received by 5 p.m. Tuesday one week before an election. Paid Election Letters submitted to the Marble Hill Banner Press must be received by 5 p.m. Friday to appear in the Wednesday paper. The final deadline to submit a Paid Election Letter for the Banner Press is two weeks before an election. Paid Election Letters for the Banner Press are $25 for up to 100 words, plus an additional 25 cents per word beyond 100. Paid Election Letters are to be paid for by the letter writer. If paid by another entity, that information must be stated properly according to election laws. Payment for the appropriate amount must be received before a Paid Election Letter will be published. Paid Election Letters must include the writer's complete mailing address, which will be published with the letter as required by Missouri election laws.

"Letters regarding ballot issues other than candidates are subject to the same guidelines as letters on topics of general public interest. The deadline for ballot-issue letters is 5 p.m. Tuesday one week before an election.

"These guidelines notwithstanding, the editor will make the final determination on the suitability of all letters submitted for publication."

Please make every effort to become informed about your local candidates, and if you feel strongly about one or more of the candidates, please consider a Paid Election Letter to let your feelings be known.

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