As independent voters, the numbers of partisan, divisive letters disturb us. Many seem to choose candidates based on one issue. We vote for the 'whole person.' So do many groups and individuals, using personal and moral qualities and/or several specific issues. Even such pro-life organizations as the Roman Catholic Church use the 'whole person' concept, writing that Catholics 'are not single-issue voters.

A candidate's position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a (Catholic) voter's support.' The Bishops use 'seven important issues,' including dignity of the human person, family and community, rights and responsibilities, caring for the poor and vulnerable, dignity of work and workers' rights and caring for the earth.

As nonaffiliated, 'moderate' voters, we are 'conservative' on some issues, 'moderate' or 'liberal' on others. We believe in some 'Republican' ideals, such as the sanctity of marriage and the dignity and sanctity of the individual and life. However, we also believe in some 'Democratic' causes, such as caring for the poor and vulnerable, workers' rights, working for the common good, and being good stewards of the earth. We do not support political parties; we support individual candidates. As 'rational voters,' we look at many aspects of the candidates, not just one or two.

Compared to two and four years ago, in this election we (unfortunately) see even more negative ads, a more polarized electorate and (again, unfortunately) no viable option to the two major political parties and their candidates (each with flaws). When reviewing candidates, we assess their character, views, stands, and performance, including -among others - the following (listed in alphabetical order, not order of importance):

n caring for the poor and most vulnerable among us

n education

n ethics - personal and political

n energy

n family and community

n fiscal responsibility and the national debt

n health care

n human rights and responsibilities

n life and human dignity

n national security, including the 'War in Iraq' and the 'Global War on Terror' (which are not the same) and veterans' issues

n Social Security and other retirement options

n stewardship of the earth, air, and water

n tax policy and fairness

n dignity of work and rights of workers

n working for the common good of all citizens

Voting is a very important role of good citizenship. We strive to be informed voters, so we learn about candidates: Where does the candidate stand on issues important to us? What is their voting record on those issues? (Sometimes their voting record doesn't agree with their stated position on the issue.) Who are their major donors? Where do their donors stand on issues important to us?

How are rational voters and citizens to vote responsibly when up against such opposing ideals? No political party - not Democrats, not Republicans, nor any other party - has a 'lock' on doing good or having the best candidate for every office. (The current party-specific primary system appears to field candidates closer to the extremes than the middle.) We look at the 'whole person,' not just one 'litmus test' issue. What we do - and what we urge everyone else to do - is gather information, compare candidates, then decide. Then we vote.

Returning to the presidential contenders: Each candidate has some reasonable ideas and some bad ones (as do 'minor party' candidates). After prioritizing issues most important to us, and thoroughly reviewing the two major party candidates, we determine which candidate is the better of the two viable candidates to lead our great nation. (We do the same for all other elected positions.)

Depending on your primary interests, you might decide differently than we have.

If you based your decision on the 'whole person' - not just one or two 'hot button' issues - we respect that decision.

J H Fenner, PhD, PE and colonel, USAF (Ret.) and Linda Fenner, Med, are residents of Lake Oswego.

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