TOM WARD - It can't be easy, ProJo

TOM WARD - It can't be easy, ProJo

Here's an interesting concept. Move the so-called "master lever" to the bottom of the ballot in November, so voters might actually read some of the names of the people running for office.

Rhode Islanders may recall that, after years of fierce fighting, the master lever, really now just a line on the ballot, allowed voters to cast ballots for an "All Democrat" or "All Republican" slate. Historically it was used as a mechanism to tip the scales in favor of Democrats in this very blue state. It was confusing, but as long as Democrats, who have owned the General Assembly for more than 70 years now, benefitted from the confusion, no change was allowed by political bosses.

This year the Assembly finally relented - for 2016!

In a Tuesday letter to the Providence Journal penned by Republican lieutenant governor candidate Catherine Terry Taylor, she writes, "Voters can draw their own conclusions about the Assembly's motivations behind that decision." My conclusion, using Occam's razor as a guidepost, is that Democrats wanted one more election - this one - to cheat in.

Taylor calls on Secretary of State Ralph Mollis to move the master lever to the bottom of the ballot. Mollis, of course, might be her Democrat opponent in November, so you can understand her personal interest. Of course, Mollis will probably ignore her.

Cumberland Mayor Dan McKee, a Democrat and primary challenger to Mollis, thinks Taylor seems to be getting ahead of herself and is running against Mollis with the letter. More than half of the voters now are telling pollsters they are still undecided in the lieutenant governor primary. Had McKee had his way, he tells me, the master lever would be long gone now. Sadly, good government comes at a glacial pace in Rhode Island.

* Speaking of the Journal, I don't know how they do it. How they take their great news staff and throw them heart and soul into really solid state election coverage, only to be ignored by every candidate running for state and federal office when it comes to campaign spending.

The website GoLocalProv wrote this long overdue story last week, principally about ignored local vendors, and it is the subject of Arlene Violet's column at right. Millions upon millions of dollars will be spent on the elections this fall, and I note all of the candidates will not support the Providence Journal. Yes, I understand the Journal has out-of-state owners, too, but no organization does a more comprehensive job of covering these races, and buying ads could help save some of those forever-threatened jobs.

The Journal staff continues to work hard, and for this, I am very appreciative. I read what I can so I may learn more about the candidates and their positions. The candidate money, however, all goes straight to out-of-town consultants, those Washington, D.C. folks who sell sizzle over steak and "spin" over facts, filling our mailboxes with costly political junk mail (all at the same time!) They convince candidates that robo-calling is a smart effort, but I recall last year getting a phone call asking my support for one of the Woonsocket mayoral candidates. Hey, fellas, I'm three miles into Cumberland! That's some system you have there!

And, of course, there is TV. Millions of dollars will be trucked to local TV stations, whose layoffs of videographers in the past few years are legendary among people in the business. I rarely watch local TV news anymore, and note with consternation - when I do watch - that it's turning into a "best of surveillance video" daily show and never-ending hype of the station's website. Supporting Rhode Island television's "corporate owners of the week" sure isn't going to grow the local economy. Rhode Islanders' hometown campaign dollars are flooding out of state.

I commend and appreciate the Journal staff's exceptional efforts for state and federal campaign coverage, and I feel their pain as those candidates use the Journal's pages for self-promotion, then spit at them when it comes time to advertise and support their employees and families. It's a damned shame.

* Finally, on a more positive note, the 100-member Up With People cast arrived in Cumberland Monday night and met their host families. They will be doing volunteer work in town as they prepare for shows on Friday and Saturday nights at 7 p.m. at Cumberland High School. I hope you can join us! For information, visit www.upwithpeople.org/northernRI .

Ward is publisher of The Valley Breeze newspapers