Endorsed-Stamp-358x200Bucking a longstanding tradition, The Sanford Herald will not publish endorsements of political candidates for the November election, the Rant has learned.

The information comes in an email to candidates and activists from Lee County Democratic Party Chairman John Kirkman, who describes a meeting with Herald editorial leadership and told about the decision.

“The primary news of interest to our candidates is The Sanford Herald will not make endorsements this year,” Kirkman writes, explaining that he was told that “the newspaper will send out three questions to every candidate, and they will be limited to a 150-maximum-word response for each question.”

The Herald has reliably weighed in on local elections over the years — races for seats on the Lee County Board of Commissioners, Sanford’s mayor and city council, and the General Assembly (subscription required x4), compiling a relatively even-handed record regarding the party affiliation of its chosen candidates (the Rant replied to one such endorsement in 2014 with a pastiche of Adam Sandler gifs. LPH.). The paper has understandably stayed away from endorsing national elections and most statewide elections.

So is this a wise move? On one hand, political endorsements can give the appearance of bias toward or against a specific candidate or party. They can turn away political advertisements (and in time when every ad dollar is precious and needed, you can forgive a paper for avoiding the drama).

On the other hand, endorsements can provide readers with information and insight they wouldn’t have access to anywhere else. Studies have shown that this kind of local race is the exact situation in which a newspaper’s endorsement is likely to make a difference.

Most importantly, a local newspaper needs to be a voice in its community. Endorsements allow a newspaper to speak freely about the wants and needs — the good and the bad — of the area.

Anyway, fare thee well, Sanford Herald candidate endorsements. We loved and hated every minute we had with you.