At the Polls Today

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 11/5/02 6:00am

New Hampshire voters looking to make informed decisions in this year's major elections got little help from the candidates. Negative campaigning reached a fever pitch this year, until the ideal of informing constituents was buried by mudslinging. If predictions of depressingly low voter turnout prove true, those elected will need to consider whether they are satisfied with a weak mandate from an electorate disenchanted by campaign tactics.

Overzealous negative campaigning was most evident in the Senate race, and neither candidate made a compelling case to voters. Nonetheless, we believe that Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen is the best choice for the Senate seat. She has been vocal in her support for a woman's right to choose while Republican opponent Rep. John Sununu has hedged, claiming that Roe v. Wade is not a legislative issue. Shaheen's inability as governor to solve the state's school funding crisis is troubling, but her moderate fiscal policies will serve New Hampshire better than Sununu's reckless corporate favoritism.

In the 2nd District race for a seat in the House, we endorse Republican Rep. Charles Bass '74. The incumbent always has the advantage of a proven track record, but Democrat Katrina Swett has done little to persuade voters that she will justify the risk of electing an untested candidate. Swett's lack of vision on Social Security -- her only plan is to form a commission to discuss the issue -- is typical of her evasive stances. We do not endorse every tenet of Bass' platform, but his pro-choice stance is an encouraging sign that he does not simply toe a party line, and we believe he will continue to represent New Hampshire admirably.

With his courageous plan for an income tax to fix New Hampshire's faulty and inequitable system for funding schools and government, Democrat Mark Fernald should be the state's next governor. By contrast, Republican candidate Craig Benson has no workable vision for the future of New Hampshire, continuing to avoid an income tax in the face of necessity. Benson's record suggests he thinks he can cover up this deficiency by spending $10.5 million of his own money, but setting a national record for per-voter campaign spending does not qualify him for the governor's office. Fernald's forward-looking ideas make him well-suited to work in Concord.