It’s an even-numbered year, which in the world of community journalism means adding campaign coverage to every beat in the Daily Sun’s small newsroom.
Flagstaff used to start its campaigns in January as candidates for City Council geared up for a March primary and May general election. But with those elections shifted to summer and fall, we had more time this year to localize stories coming out of the Legislature and get out ahead of the May 17 ballot measures. It turns out the Legislature’s focus this session on preempting local control played into that strategy – the upcoming races in Legislative District 6 won’t lack for a full archive of stories that candidates and their opponents can use to fact-check the claims.
But the Legislature has adjourned and the May 17 election is history. We’ll gear up our local campaign coverage right after Memorial Day as soon as candidates are certified for the ballot. The idea is to get out ahead of the state and federal races, which will begin flooding the airwaves, voicemails and mailboxes soon after Labor Day.
As usual, we’ll divide our coverage into three areas: the candidates, the issues and the campaigns. The first is mainly biographical; the second comes out in interviews, forums and fact-checks; and the third has to do with how much money is being raised and spent and the tactics candidates are using to get their message across and win the election. If surveys about the presidential race are correct, voters seem to be paying more attention to the first and the third while waiting for Election Day to get closer to learn more about the second.
Locally, we don’t have the luxury of waiting for the fall, so even candidates without primary races can expect some issues questionnaires early this summer. And with the City Council, we’ll look to again roll out our Question of the Week that proved popular with readers last election – it also relieves candidates of having to answer 15 questions all at once. Look for that series to start early in June. (Candidates: Details will be coming soon by email.)
Another ground rule that we’ll employ again is limited access by candidates to the letters columns. We have found in the past that some candidates attempted to disguise their press releases as 250-word letters. Candidates, if you have campaign news to announce or just want to float an idea, contact the reporter assigned to your race. They’ll be in touch with you soon, and our Campaign 2016 website page will be up and running, also.
Adding to the campaign cacophony this fall will likely be several local measures on the November ballot. We’re hoping, however, to get to the living wage and open space proposals much earlier than that – again, to avoid having them drowned out by the presidential and congressional big-spenders.
That puts an extra burden on local voters to start tuning up their political antennae early. The summer is not an ideal season for focusing attention on transect zoning, water conservation rate incentives and entry-level wage displacement curves. But we hope to make those issues and others as accessible and compelling as possible.
Remember, voters, you’ll get next summer off. But buckle your seat belts for the summer of 2016.