This Thursday is the deadline for major-party candidates to secure a spot on the ballot in Vermont's August 9 primary elections. There was a monthlong window — from April 25 to May 26 — to submit the necessary paperwork to the Secretary of State's Office. But plenty of politicians declared their intentions long before that.
On November 15, news of Sen. Patrick Leahy's retirement from the U.S. Senate triggered a small avalanche of what appeared to be carefully timed Monday announcements. A week later, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch said he would run for Leahy's seat. Fourteen days after that, on December 6, Lt. Gov. Molly Gray declared her candidacy for Welch's spot in the U.S. House. The following Monday, state Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint threw her hat into the ring.
Many more candidates have since come forward — in part because a number of long-occupied elected offices have opened up in the past few weeks. It turns out Vermont voters will be choosing a new lieutenant governor, treasurer, secretary of state and attorney general this year, in addition to two-thirds of the state's congressional delegation.
Almost immediately, we started getting letters to the editor in praise of the contenders. We published those that referenced Seven Days stories — and cartoons! — but held back on printing the ones that were blatantly generic. Every newspaper in the state receives such endorsement letters, often written by campaign volunteers; it amounts to free political advertising.
We're seeing a lot more letters now that primary campaign season is "open." But you won't. Following the lead of the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, Seven Days now has a written policy of rejecting partisan letters that promote or endorse local political candidates if they have no connection to our reporting. We turned down four such letters this week, for Gray, Balint, Rep. Kitty Toll — who's running for Gray's LG seat — and secretary of state candidate Chris Winters.
Many local newspapers across the country are going the same route, and frankly it's high time. While campaign ad dollars have migrated from newspapers to television, digital and direct mail — none of which offers a comparable free public forum for responses — print media has dutifully covered the races and published the letters for free while their own coffers have summarily dried up.
Seven Days is not selling endorsement letters, as the Times Argus is doing for a nominal fee. All we ask is that your written thoughts relate to a story, ad or even another letter in our paper or on our website. Why else would they be directed "to the editor"?
Want to make a case for a candidate? Our account reps will be more than happy to sell you ad space so you can share your views. The money will help fund our political and other local reporting so that Seven Days can continue to keep you informed about the news, culture and elections that connect us.