If this year wasn't challenging enough, why not throw in an election? And let's make it nasty and divisive on all levels -- from the presidential to the local campaigns.
Maybe it's because we are tired of being isolated. During this 34th week of the shelter-in-place with no end in sight, stress is high and hope is low. People are losing sleep over unemployment, unpaid bills, concern about the mental and physical health of loved ones, and, of course, becoming infected with the virus we are trying to stem.
Maybe it's the sheer number of candidates. Even in elections that aren't usually races because only the incumbents run (like Danville Town Council or most Tri-Valley school boards), candidates came out in droves in 2020.
Danville had triple the number of candidates as open council seats -- nine total. Dublin City Council had that many candidates, too, for two available seats.
We heard from residents who wanted to condemn candidates based on false rumors about their personal pasts, without as much as a question about whether the rumor was true. One candidate received vile, racist, sexist correspondence from a community member; another candidate threatened a community member.
We heard many, many unverified (and unverifiable) allegations of wrongdoing by candidates.
Intentionally misleading and blatantly false information was posted on our Town Square; when it was removed pending verification, our moderators were attacked on the forum and via email.
Candidates or their representatives were posting on our Town Square sites, too, posing as citizens, trolling.
Signs were stolen. FPPC complaints were made. Lawsuits were filed.
"Clean money" became an issue in this election, but nobody defined the term. Some candidates derided their opponents for taking money from developers, but those same candidates willingly accepted money from labor unions or other special interests.
Speaking of money, a significant number of Tri-Valley council candidates raised over $40,000; one raised more than $80,000, with over $22,000 coming from the same person. That's obscene in a local election.
Our small editorial staff conducted and covered eight virtual candidate forums (12 if you count mayoral and council forums separately as they were presented), including forums on four nights in a row from Sept. 21-24. In addition, we profiled every candidate running in city/town and school board elections in the five Tri-Valley communities, did endorsements in every race and covered campaign finance. We really got to know all the candidates and were impressed by a majority.
However, some were clearly out of their depth. One candidate had "big concerns" that we didn't promote her candidate profile story to her liking and we spent a lot of time explaining to her the difference between our role and the candidate's role.
But nothing beat the candidate who sent us a scathing email because, with no civic experience and without a feasible plan of action, he did not earn our endorsement. That was a first.
Combined, our editorial staff has decades of experience and this local election, by far, was one of the ugliest in terms of dirty tactics, misinformation, hateful name-calling and venomous attacks (on candidates, each other and on us).
Salve to our wounds, though, were the recent words of a reader: "I just want to let you know how much I appreciate the good job you and your team have done, under unimaginably difficult circumstances, to keep all voters informed and engaged. It can't have been easy for any of you, working from home, keeping things on an even keel, and sorting the wheat from the chaff as these very truths we hold to be self-evident have seemingly come under siege. Toss in a record-breaking fire season and a worst in more than a century global pandemic and lesser souls would surely have broken.
"We readers are often quick to criticize, sometimes too slow with a word of encouragement. Working out the logistics of the virtual candidate forums was a challenge you met and the result was perhaps one of the best-informed cadre of voters in a very long time, if ever."
Kind words and a bit of encouragement go a long way in these extremely difficult times. Let's remember that as these newly elected or re-elected officials step up to lead.
And be good to one another.