Finding the best candidates 

John Newsome sat at the meeting-room table early on a recent Monday morning, knowing the next hour or so wouldn't be enjoyable.

The district attorney, engaged in a whirlwind battle for re-election to a second term, knew that coming to the Independent as part of our editorial board's candidate interviews was essential. Newsome also understood the topics wouldn't be as easy as reciting his accomplishments and other talking points.

He could have been hostile. For that matter, after the recent media stories including in this paper about his drinking and driving habits, he could have simply refused to come in for the interview. But then again, he knew the Indy had endorsed him in the 2004 election, which at the time came as a surprise to many.

So the DA took the smart route. He was aggressive, defensive and apologetic but not combative. He'll find out next week how much of an influence he had. But let's put it this way: He gave himself a fighting chance, simply by facing the difficult interview and even injecting some humor along the way.

When the time came to talk about the beer-drinking matter, which we labeled the "Newsome Challenge" when three of us re-created his actual observed consumption one night ("Drink, drank ... drunk?" News, May 22), he said, "You guys should have trademarked that, because I hear there will be some Newsome Challenge T-shirts coming out."

That light moment, and some of his subsequent thoughts, showed us plenty about Newsome, even if it didn't settle every question about this campaign.

As has been the case with most other primary and general elections over the past 15 years, the Independent has conducted interviews with candidates in several contested area races for the upcoming Republican primary. We take seriously our job to represent the interests of our 104,000 regular El Paso County readers (reconfirmed by a recent media audit of the area market), which means lots of preparation in order to ask the best questions possible, even some that they might not expect. Based on information gathered via e-mail from readers, we delved into a wide variety of issues, from the environment to thoughts on a post Roe v. Wade world, and from the county's proposed 1-cent sales tax increase to Pion Canyon expansion.

Our purpose, of course, is and has been to develop well-informed opinions of different candidates. Beginning next week, we'll share those views with our recommendations and/or endorsements, in particular for the 5th District in Congress, the DA race and state House District 15, which have attracted by far the most attention.

We didn't want to be too early, because most who receive mail-in ballots and vote immediately have already made up their minds. Those who wait to become more fully informed, or who would rather vote the old-fashioned way at the polls, are the main audience for us political philosophy aside.

This year we also are watching to see what, if any, subversive dirty tactics surface in the campaign's final weeks. We only have to look back to the last 5th District congressional brouhaha in 2006 for a classic example, when "friends" of Doug Lamborn sent out a perfectly timed mass mailing that accused Jeff Crank of being pro-homosexual (oh, the horror!), in part because his former employer, the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, had endorsed businessman Richard Skorman for re-election to the Colorado Springs City Council. For many conservative Republican voters trying to decipher a confusing six-man race, that was enough to tilt the scales for Lamborn, who eked out a narrow victory by a margin of 892 votes.

Our interviews with candidates are an opportunity, not an ordeal. It's not like going on national TV, or even having to squirm in front of several hundred interested voters at a public forum. Yet, endorsement interviews are not exactly love fests, either.

In upcoming weeks, we'll share our insights on the congressional race (Doug Lamborn and two challengers who insist they are not Doug Lamborn), DA Newsome and challenger Dan May, as well as state Rep. Douglas Bruce and the man called the anti-Bruce Mark Waller).

Then it's up to the area's GOP voters including those who have decided to be RFODs (Republicans for one day).



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