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Tomorrow's editorials: The light rail accident and Jim Smith's war chest

Here are previews of editorials we're working on for Thrusday's paper. Let us know what you think. The best comments will run alongside the editorials in the print edition.

--Much is still unknown about the light rail accident that killed two teenage boys in Lutherville Sunday, but the details that have emerged are disturbing. Surveillance video shows that the two were walking north on the southbound tracks, evidently unaware that the northbound track was closed and that a train could be coming up behind them. They weren't lying down on the tracks, as initially suspected, or jumping across them at the last minute or any of a number of other ways that they might not have been visible to the operator of the oncoming train. Unlike subway cars, which sometimes are run by computers, light rail cars are entirely human-operated. Driving one is like driving a bus on rails. It's hard to imagine that an alert, focused driver could have not seen two young men walking on the tracks in broad daylight and, moreover, how the driver could have not noticed that the boys had been hit.

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--Call it the mother of all campaign finance loopholes. Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. is poised to leave office with more than $1 million in his campaign account and the ability to transfer all of it to any candidate he likes through his Baltimore County Victory Slate. He doesn't have to be on the ballot to do so, and he can add any candidates he likes to the slate at any time. With that kind of money, he can be a kingmaker, giving him the potential for outsized influence over who gets into office – and influence over them once they're sworn in.

In Mr. Smith's case, this is not an abstract concern. In 2006, with no serious opposition of his own, he funneled nearly $400,000 into the campaign of a relatively unknown lawyer, Scott Shellenberger, leading to his election as Baltimore County state's attorney.

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There are plenty of easy ways to solve this problem, but none of them has much chance in Annapolis, where incumbents have little incentive to monkey with a system that affords them a huge advantage. Eliminating the unlimited transfers between members of a slate would make good sense, but it has little chance, given that Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller has amassed much of his political power by using that trick. And as long as we're dreaming, this loophole offers another good reason to adopt public financing of election campaigns, an idea that failed again this year despite Mr. Miller's unexpected backing. But dealing in the realm of the possible, perhaps we could at least require that members of a slate actually be running for something.

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