Editorial Round-Up: Personhood Tops Ballot Debate

The debate over personhood and collective bargaining on the 2011 election ballots ring through the nation's newspaper opinion pages.
by , | November 8, 2011

With Americans heading to the polls Tuesday, editorial boards nationwide took the opportunity to voice their positions on gubernatorial races and ballot questions to be decided at the ballot box.

One of the most contentious issues of this election season was over a proposed constitutional amendment in Mississippi that would declare life begins at conception, staking out an intriguing position in the national debate on abortion. Many Mississippi newspapers, perhaps sensing the potential risk in taking a side, declined to endorse the amendment or oppose it.

The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson did, however, encouraging voters to vote "no." The newspaper recognizes the amendment is set up as a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, but says the initiative is "dangerously flawed." Its possible fallout for women's health if the amendment was interpreted to ban certain types of surgery is "mind-boggling," according to the editorial board.

"Abortion is a national constitutional issue that can only be decided by the U.S. Supreme. Court," the Clarion-Ledger writes. "This vote won't change that, but it can threaten women's lives."

Outside of Mississippi, high-profile newspapers were almost unanimous in their opposition to the personhood proposal. The New York Times says it is "among the most extreme assaults in the push to end women's reproductive rights." USA Today paints a vivid image, saying the amendment "is the legal equivalent of a poorly aimed grenade."

Ohio Issue 2 was equally controversial. The state legislature voted to curb collective bargaining rights for public employees, and voters will decide whether or not to endorse that decision. The Akron Beacon-Journal advises its reader to turn it down, saying it is a "partisan power play" that fails to fix real problems in the current system.

"Unfortunately, the governor and his allies weren't content with repair work. They used the moment to deal a hammer blow to their political adversaries, Democrats and organized labor," the editorial board laments, "going after the way unions are structured and function, seeking to diminish their capacity to participate in the political process."

But the Canton Repository, in supporting the measure, alleges, "The status quo is unsustainable." The newspaper acknowledges that Republican took advantage of their numbers to draft a bill that hits hard against their political opponents. But the price of keeping the current system is simply unacceptable, according to the Repository.

"Police, firefighters, teachers and other public employees are neither bloodsuckers nor saints, as the campaigns for and against Issue 2 would have you believe," the editorial board concludes. "They are hardworking people who deserve reasonable wages and benefits. Ohio's taxpayers are hardworking people who deserve effective, cost-efficient government. Saying yes to Issue 2 is the only way both groups will get what they deserve."

Current Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear seems to have support as he seeks re-election. Beshear "has done a competent and, in many respects, admirable job. The Governor, the head of the Democratic ticket, deserves re-election to a second four-year term," writes the Louisville Courier-Journal in its endorsement. The newspaper praises him for cutting the state budget by more than $1 billion while identifying areas such as education, healthcare and public safety as priorities that should be protected from harsh reductions.

The Lexington Herald-Leader concurs, saying the governor "has provided steady, scandal-free leadership during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression." Republican challenger David Williams has "nothing in his...legislative record or ideas to suggest he'd be any better at getting things done," the newspaper asserts.

The search for a proper successor to Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour proved slighlty more contentious. The Sun-Herald endorses Democrat Johnny DuPree, mayor of Hattiesburg, saying his focus on creating jobs through small businesses without raising taxes should benefit the state. The newspaper's editors believe DuPree could lift Mississippi from the bottom of various lists of economic well-being and quality of life.

"His approach to doing that is both practical and appealing. It has won him our endorsement," the Sun-Herald concludes.

Meanwhile, the Clarion-Ledger tosses its support for Phil Bryant, the presumed frontrunner and current Republican lieutenant governor. While Dupree "brings a lot of good things to the table," Bryant "offers experience and expertise in areas that DuPree cannot match."

Check back tomorrow for Governing's coverage of these elections.

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