Editorial: Setting some ground rules for 2015 campaign season

upervisor nominee addresses the Riverhead Town Democratic Committee after his nomination for supervisor Tuesday evening. (Credit: Tim Gannon)
Supervisor nominee Anthony Coates addresses the Riverhead Town Democratic Committee after his nomination for supervisor Tuesday evening. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Memorial Day has long been considered the official start of summer in these parts. It’s also fast becoming the unofficial start of silly season. 

About this time each year, local political parties hold their nominating conventions and, once the names are, well, named, none of the candidates seems able to afford to enjoy the summer and start politicking after Labor Day, as they used to. Once just a couple of candidates start campaigning publicly the rest suddenly have to keep up. If they sit back, they risk being left behind in the all-important task of getting their message out — and, perhaps just as important, defining (read: distorting) their opponent’s message. With this all in mind, we’re in for a very long campaign at both town and county levels.

We have long prided ourselves on providing complete coverage of town and county races through our newspapers and websites, and we will continue to do so. The county executive’s position and all 18 Suffolk Legislature seats will be decided in the fall. Locally, supervisor positions, Town Board seats and other positions, including judgeships, are up for grabs.

Democracy is an imperfect and often messy business and campaigns frequently generate far more heat than light. Some venerable issues — government spending, affordable housing, land preservation and water quality, for example — can be counted on to color, if not dominate, the dialogue. It’s up to all of us to recognize the differences between what’s merely entertaining and what’s critical to our communities’ future.

In the coming weeks, these pages will undoubtedly carry considerable commentary about the people and propositions on the November ballot. We ask those who seek office to stick to the issues and abide by our general letters policy. That means keep it to under 350 words and prepare to be edited as we deem fair and appropriate. Aside from a single introductory letter from each candidate, this isn’t the place for self-promotion or promises — and those types of letters won’t see ink. And if you belong to a local political committee or work for someone already in office, you will be identified as such.

For letter writers who do stick to the issues and call out officials or others on their actions or positions, remember to keep it civil. We live in small towns and today’s adversaries can be tomorrow’s friends and neighbors. That’s not a prohibition against tough criticism, but it is a ban on nasty personal attacks.