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In campaigns, choose civility [Editorial]

Campaign season is getting underway, with candidates declaring or testing the waters for a run for county executive and council next year. These are important grassroots offices that set the agenda for taxes and spending, education, development, transportation, health and public safety and a range of other issues and priorities.

Countywide races are shaping up amid a national political climate that has grown increasingly stormy, with shrill comments commonplace and events such as last week's unimaginable shooting on a Northern Virginia ball field where Republicans were practicing for a charity game with Democrats.

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Something has to change in political dialogue and the themes of Howard's longstanding "Choose Civility" campaign, which at its core encourages respect and tolerance, must remain at the forefront of local elections.

Liberal advocacy group Together We Will spent a Saturday afternoon knocking on doors to engage Howard County residents in conversations about politics.

This summer, volunteers from Together We Will, a progressive political group, are knocking on doors in the county in what's described as a "listening campaign." Whether groups are labeled liberal or conservative, the fact that they're taking time to solicit ideas and encourage discussions is welcome. Measured, responsible dialogue — be it one-on-one at the doorstep or at a crowded public hearing on whether the county should become a "sanctuary" for immigrants — is essential for the smooth functioning of democracy.

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While there are common threads in the fabric that is Howard County — the need for good jobs, quality education, health care and public safety among them — the county's government needs to listen to the voices of a changing and increasing diverse population.

Howard has a history of strong civic engagement and generally good governance, with voters using the ballot box to bring about change (to wit, last year's school board election that became a referendum on the former school superintendent's leadership).

Voters will take note of candidates in county races who are loathe to choose civility. Let the campaigns begin, with spirited debate and none of the bile that has been spewed nationally.



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