September 15 2006, 9:53 AM
Yesterday The Grand Junction Sentinel endorsed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter, sort of, in a glowing editorial that may not have been intended to be released when it was. That endorsement (or not) came on the same day that The Montrose Daily Press backed Ritter for governor. It is a big surprise that two Western Slope newspapers would back Ritter over the more traditional Republican candidate (given that both papers are in Republican areas), but what isn't surprising is the timing of the endorsements. It used to be that newspapers would make their endorsements of candidates in mid-October, but voting trends are changing that thinking. Most political analysts expect that the majority of voters will cast their ballot either absentee or through early voting, with somewhere around 55-60 percent of ballots having been marked before November 7. That means that in order for a newspaper to make an endorsement that matters, they need to do it in mid-September; that way, a campaign has enough time to publicize the endorsement and the newspaper gets enough time to allow their endorsement to have some sort of impact. Absentee ballots will begin to mail out in the first week of October, so waiting to make an endorsement until mid-October means that it will be too late for many voters. Kudos to the Sentinel and the Daily Press for paying attention to the changing trends.