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We're meeting the candidates

The Forum Editorial Board began conducting political candidate endorsement interviews last week. They will continue this week and into the following week.

The Forum Editorial Board began conducting political candidate endorsement interviews last week. They will continue this week and into the following week.

Yes, it's a chore. The process takes a lot of time and puts additional pressure on our daily deadlines. But it's worth it.

First, since we're serious about political endorsements, we're obligated to put time and effort into them. Face-to-face discussions with candidates are the best way to get a feel for their positions on vital public policy issues. While incumbents have records to peruse, newcomers bring with them both the enthusiasm of a first-time candidate and some indication whether they know what they're talking about. Most do.

Second, cynicism about politics is endemic to my work. Sometimes the news about politicians is disheartening - the Foley scandal, for example. But when we talk with incumbents and office seekers from North Dakota and Minnesota, there's little room for cynicism or disgust. With the exception of a few who have no business either holding or running for public office, they are good people. They are sincere about public service - about making a difference for their state or county or country.

Sure, partisanship is part of the equation. Some partisans - whether on the left or right - have a hard time understanding anything but their own biases. Often they're tedious dullards. But for the most part, candidates are motivated not primarily by political persuasion, but by genuine commitment to their communities.

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I'm impressed by several young candidates. Democrat Jasper Schneider (son of the late legislator and U.S. attorney John Schneider) is running for the N.D. House in Fargo's District 21. He's smart, enthusiastic and confident. So is Zac Ista of West Fargo, Democratic candidate for the House from District 13. Both men trace their politics to strong family traditions.

Republican Dwight Grotberg, the Wimbledon, N.D., farmer who is challenging Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., stopped in a couple of weeks ago and will be in again for the endorsement interview. He's articulate and intelligent and brings a compelling personal story to his candidacy.

A few mature, veteran political hopefuls are back, including Republican Rachel Disrud of Fargo, who is trying to regain the District 21 House seat she lost four years ago by a just a few votes. She was a thoughtful, moderate legislator who was able to set aside partisanship in favor of a greater good.

Page, N.D., farmer Matt Mechtel is carrying the Republican banner against Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D. Mechtel, who will be in this week to meet with the Editorial Board, has distinguished himself by taking the high road. He clearly has policy disagreements with the incumbent, but has refused to engage in the sort of mud-slinging that professional political operatives all too often urge. Good for him.

Don't confuse my admiration for a few candidates with The Forum's formal endorsements. My reviews do not constitute Forum endorsements. Look for them later this month in the "Our opinion" column of the editorial page.

Zaleski can be reached at jzaleski@forumcomm.com or (701) 241-5521.

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