To steal from Mark Twain, reports of our democracy's death are exaggerated.
Few people spend as much time with candidates running for local office as the members of the Herald-Leader editorial board. Generally board members spend about an hour with every new candidate for local office who chooses to come in and talk. It's a unique opportunity to go beyond stump speeches to learn about the candidate's experience, interests and priorities, to sound them out about local issues and learn what motivated them to run for office.
It's a marathon in a year like this when more than two dozen people are seeking positions on the Lexington Urban County Council, in addition to those running for state and federal offices.
They were, by and large, an impressive, engaged, intelligent group.
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They came from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences: some had only graduated from high school, others had professional degrees. They'd been homeless, raised by hardworking single mothers, raised in housing projects, adopted into loving families.
Their working lives were varied, too. They'd started businesses of their own, worked in retailing, manufacturing, construction, the auto industry, education, real estate, state and local government.
They'd taken this step into politics for different reasons. Some had been active in neighborhood associations and other civic endeavors for years and saw this as a next step, others had become engaged as the result of a specific threat that led to a wider interest in government.
Anyone can get a good look at candidates for local races, thanks to the efforts of the League of Women Voters and the Lexington Public Library; and for federal races, KET. The League hosted candidate forums in all the council races at the downtown branch of the library. Voters still trying to make up their minds can access those at www.lexpublib.org. Candidates for the U.S. House and Senate appeared on KET's Kentucky Tonight and can be seen at www.ket.org/election.
Democracy's health wasn't quite so evident in the hard-fought race for U.S. Senate. Two no-shows on Kentucky Tonight were Alison Lundergan Grimes, the likely Democratic nominee, who met with the editorial board, and five-term incumbent Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, who didn't.
It's a sad fact of modern political life that the higher the stakes the more likely candidates are to avoid unscripted interactions, relying instead on programmed appearances and highly produced advertising to relay their messages about themselves and their opponents.
But Grimes and McConnell will be asking Kentuckians to choose between them, not their campaign operatives or advertising producers. May 21 will not be too early for each of them to find time in their fall calendars to debate on Kentucky's public television network. They owe it to Kentucky voters.