Almost time to decide

This is our final edition before Tuesday’s Primary election. I encourage everyone who is registered to vote to participate, assuming you’ve learned about the candidates. 

Hopefully, you aren’t just pushing a button to reflect whose name is more familiar or whose mentioning in a negative campaign ad on TV left the least bad taste in your mouth because a lot is at stake in this election.  

While all of these races matter, the jobs of state attorney general, circuit judges, district attorneys and sheriffs are especially critical because of the power these officials hold to enforce our laws and prosecute those who break them. 

This authority demands a respect for due process, constitutional rights and the highest regard for public safety. Their daily decisions can literally mean the difference between lives saved/lost. Our children and those serving in law enforcement, in particular, are relying on us as voters to make the best choice with their welfare in mind.

One thing making this election unique is that we will cast votes for District Attorney for the first time since Richard Igou won a third term in 1992. Whoever wins on Tuesday, they’ll have big shoes to fill. Our current D.A., Mike O’Dell would not have kept his job for a quarter century if his behavior or choices during those many years demonstrated less than exemplary character. It’s the greatest compliment to a public official when potential opponents fail to see glaring vulnerabilities providing an opening and stand down any challenge. 

It’s too bad our judicial elections have to be political at all because we risk the credibility of the system of legal justice by toying with campaign rhetoric increasingly focused more on punishing someone rather than on dispensing justice equally to everyone, regardless of their political or religious affiliations, skin color, sexual orientation, etc. All citizens need to feel like they stand a good chance of being treated impartially when they stand accused of something. Mercy matters as much as toughness, including consideration of victims for whom justice is sought.  

This sober respect for everyone’s rights — even those we may dislike or disagree with as long as they aren’t breaking the law — is what prevents our system from becoming a kangaroo court and a sham for political theater, subject to the whims of whoever can be bought or which “culture war” issues will motive the voters most likely to vote the same as us to get to the polls. 

Thus, it is our responsibility as registered voters to carefully consider our choices and hire individuals who display maturity, good judgment, experience and the highest ethical standards. Not everyone has to like them (and criminals will most certainly hate those who lock them away), but the public servants in these roles need to be widely respected for their restraint and their compassion more than feared for what they can do if given the authority to lock people behind bars and direct the full terrible weight of the state to impose punishment against the worst of us. 

In this election, we’re also replacing retiring U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, whose presence will be missed after spending 36 years in Washington D.C. 

Democrats will choose which candidate will try to deprive Robert Aderholt of a 14th term representing Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District in this fall’s General Election.

It’s felt like everybody and their brother is running for governor this time around, but we should have some clarity about our state’s leadership in the days ahead. 

Closer to home, voters in Tuesday’s election will also have a say on who serves as our representatives in the Alabama Legislature, DeKalb County Board of Education, DeKalb County Commission and other seats. I know these candidates appreciate your consideration and want to do a good job if we entrust them with the gigs. 

While our newspaper is not endorsing any specific candidates, I strongly encourage everyone to vote in favor of Amendment One, which will help us to modernize and maintain our state parks by borrowing $85 million to be repaid over 20 years. Tourism has become too important to DeKalb County’s economy to vote against this. Alabama ranked No. 4 nationally last year in terms of tourism, but we’ll lose ground if we don’t protect and preserve this beautiful playground where we are blessed to live.

- Steven Stiefel is the Publisher of The Times-Journal. 

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