Andy Schmookler is running for Congress in the 6th Congressional District of Virginia, challenging the incumbent Congressman, Bob Goodlatte. An award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, Andy moved with his family to Shenandoah County in 1992. He is a graduate of Harvard University and holds a PhD from the University of California at Berkeley.
Politicians and political parties have their own interests at stake in elections, but the genuine and legitimate purpose of elections is to serve the interests of the voters. In this election for Virginia's 6th District seat in Congress, the voters will have a stark choice--for the incumbent Bob Goodlatte and I are on opposite sides of a battle more profound than any this country has faced for at least a century and a half, if not ever. It is therefore in the interest of the voters for them to be able to see as clearly as possible what choices they will have in November as to who will represent them in Congress.
In that spirit, I wrote the following letter to several of the major newspapers of the 6th District.
I have a proposal that I believe would serve the interests of the voters of the 6th District and would also be in the tradition of good journalism.
I propose that you invite the two main-party nominees for Congress in our 6th District-- Bob Goodlatte and me-- each to submit for publication a series of op/ed pieces about the purposes of our candidacy and about the concerns of the people of this district.
The election process is supposed to be conducted for the benefit of the voters. What better way to elevate the election process than to allow people to get a good look at their choices -- not with slick 30-second TV ads but by having each of us, side by side, substantiate our claims that we could best represent their interests and values?
I propose that these pieces run at intervals of three weeks. Mr. Goodlatte already publishes messages to the electorate in some (mostly weekly) newspapers in the district. So he would surely be able to provide material. And I have 35 years of experience publishing opinion pieces in newspapers. I would be glad for you to impose a requirement that our pieces meet standards of substance and craft by which you usually judge what's fit to be published.
I believe that by agreeing to this proposal, [your newspaper] would be performing a service in the best traditions of American journalism.
You might be concerned that at some point one of the candidates will not deliver his opinion piece in a timely fashion. In that case, I suggest that the other candidate's opinion piece be published anyway, along with a note indicating that both candidates were invited to participate. But the intent of this enterprise is to enable the voters to see what the candidates have to say, side by side.
With thanks for your consideration,
Democratic nominee for Congress.
Thus far, the Roanoke Times has indicated an interest in doing something along these lines, and the Daily News Record (Harrisonburg) has rejected the idea. The News Leader (Staunton) has expressed openness to the idea, but requires that both candidates sign on for anything to happen. From the News Virginian (Waynesboro) and the News and Advance (Lynchburg) I am still awaiting a response.
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