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Editorial: What voters don't know about their candidate can hurt them

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Katherine Pinner, the Republican candidate for St. Louis County executive, has scrubbed her website of any evidence of past lunacy and wild satanic conspiracy theories. Her website now offers a montage of “I voted” stickers along with a photo of her pleasantly smiling while leaning against a stone column, as if to suggest: Who could possibly object to Pinner and her candidacy?

Over on the Democrats’ side, the website for U.S. Senate candidate Trudy Busch Valentine eloquently outlines her positions on issues important to her potential voters: abortion rights, guns, the environment, “standing with the LGBTQ community,” etc. The homepage photo depicts the casually dressed brewery heiress in a brown, nondescript vest, smiling into the camera. What Democrat could possibly object?

The knee-jerk reaction of far too many voters is to assume that, because this person represents my party, she or he automatically deserves my vote. The last thing candidates and their campaign advisers want is for voters to dig deeper. When voters oblige them, democracy risks slipping into the hands of people who might have no business anywhere near the levers of power.

Pinner, previously a complete unknown, seemed to have no chance of defeating one of Missouri’s leading Black Republicans, state Rep. Shamed Dogan, in the Aug. 2 primary. She stayed away from public forums. The news media ignored her. It was only after her primary victory that this newspaper scrutinized Pinner’s personal website, where shocking examples were on display of her bizarre beliefs.

She referred to President Joe Biden as a tool of Satan. She thinks the Democrats’ social agenda has satanic origins (just replace the letter B in Build Back Better with the number 6, and the mark of the devil appears). She thinks coronavirus vaccines are laced with microscopic computer chips so the government can monitor humans. (Yet, magically, no such chips are found in Ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine. Nor does Pinner address the far-easier way to monitor people: through the cellphones they carry everywhere.)

Voters no longer have the ability to know what Pinner really stands for because her website has been sanitized.

Valentine appears well-spoken in her campaign website’s point-by-point outline of her positions. But in actual interviews, she tends to wax into incoherence. Her jumbled explanation of transgender rights and transitioning treatment for youths got her into serious trouble with some progressives and Mayor Tishaura Jones.

The message for voters is clear: Don’t go on assumptions. Take time to do research and, better still, demand that the candidates attend public forums where they can explain their positions to the public’s satisfaction. None of this is to suggest these and other candidates are not nice people with good intentions. But articulating a position and defending it publicly must be a basic requirement of any elected official, whether it’s on the Senate floor or in the County Council chamber.

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