One editorial board member’s shift in priorities

political-ender_t320_240Donald Luzzatto, editorial page editor at The Virginian-Pilot, penned an article for yesterday’s paper in which he noted that he will be de-emphasizing incumbency as he evaluates candidates for endorsement this fall.

A bent toward incumbency isn’t by any means new. It has been a factor in Virginian-Pilot editorial page endorsements for a long time, on the grounds that experience confers expertise and power. What’s different now is the politics.

You can be utterly incompetent and still get re-elected by having a beating heart. You can parrot the most unhinged ideas, work against the needs of your district, be lazy, and it may not matter because of the electoral mathematics.


So while experience will still count as we enter a new round of candidate interviews and endorsements, it’ll count less for me.

Notice that Luzzatto says “for me.” Not for the entire editorial board, which consists of Luzzatto and five others: David Mele, the newspaper’s publisher,  and editorial writers Candy Hatcher, Daryl Lease, Shawn Day and Michelle Washington.  I have no idea whether the others will join him or continue with their built-in preference for incumbents.

Interestingly enough, this is a year in which there are few races where there is an incumbent facing a challenger. In the House of Delegates races in Hampton Roads, just the contests in the 21st and the 100th fit the bill. (Other Hampton Roads contested races where there is an incumbent – the 71st, 93rd, 94th & 95th – are outside of the newspaper’s circulation area and will be covered by The Daily Press.) At the local level, two races in Chesapeake feature incumbents, one in Norfolk, one in Portsmouth, one in Suffolk, and none one in Virginia Beach.

Even with so few contests affected, I would urge the other members of the editorial board to join Luzzatto in reducing the emphasis on the value of incumbency. They have enough advantages as it is without this finger on the scale, too.


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