Judge future leaders by more than their signs

Posted June 04, 2010, at 9:19 p.m.

I’m sure there are many studies done by remarkably smart researchers proving that candidate election signs have a substantial impact on voters.

If not, I’m sure such signs would not be plastered along all of our streets and intersections as Tuesday’s primary fast approaches.

And I’m sure that there are many studies done by those same remarkably smart researchers proving that if one sign at one intersection is good, then surely two or three or perhaps 10 at the same intersection will go even further in swaying a potential supporter.

I’m sure the studies are out there, and I’m sure there are people who actually believe that the candidate with the most signs must be the best candidate.

I’m just not one of them.

I understand they are part of the political process, but, honestly, I find them irritating.

My environmentally conscious teenager piped up the other evening while we were discussing gubernatorial candidates and announced that one who is seen as a front-runner was wasting paper.

She had driven by one intersection and seen this particular candidate’s signs peppering the intersection.

“There was a great big one and then like 10 smaller ones all around it,” she declared indignantly. “Why do they do that?”

I didn’t have a good answer, but I’m sure that somewhere a very smart political researcher does.

With the names of 11 candidates appearing on Tuesday’s ballot for governor and with polls indicating an enormous percentage of voters still undecided, I suppose the last dash in signage is going to be a mad one.

A poll released just three weeks ago showed that of 600 registered voters asked, 42 percent could not name even one candidate for governor.

Certainly the candidates have ratcheted up the advertising campaign since then, and perhaps voters have made strides in deciding who they believe should sit in that office for the next four years.

MaryEllen FitzGerald, president of Critical Insights, which conducted the poll, was quoted as saying the results showed that people were more concerned with the economy and unemployment than with who was running for governor.

Personally, I’d like to think that most of us voters understand there is a direct connection there.

Whether over a hot cup of coffee or a cold mug of beer, there is hardly a more beloved pastime than grousing about politicians, whether in Augusta or Washington.

Many elections have come and gone in which voters may feel their choices were, shall we say, lacking.

This race — this election — is not one of those.

The field of gubernatorial candidates before us this week is large and diverse. They are smart people. Some are seasoned politicians with experience in Washington and Augusta. Others are business leaders and educators.

There are fiscal and social conservatives and longtime Democratic leaders.

They are from a variety of areas throughout the state and have different levels of education, work and political experience.

Maine voters do like to blame the folks in Augusta for our high taxes, our unemployment rate and our inability to attract good, solid businesses to our state.

And yes, pretty much all of the candidates are promising to lower taxes and energy costs while increasing jobs and bettering education.

The TV ads are starting to get monotonous, but it’s time to start paying attention. The information about each candidate is out there whether in newspapers, on TV or on the Internet.

Like me, you may not be a remarkably smart political researcher, but you don’t have to be one to make an informed decision that’s based on more than whose political sign snagged your attention on the way to the polls.

Yes, there’s a bunch of them, and perhaps it requires a bit more effort than other elections, but it’s one heck of a lineup.

Pick one and vote because the responsibility for which direction this state heads in the next four years lies firmly at the feet of the voters.

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