Debates, old speeding tickets, tax appeals, bad stock investments and poor choice of friends.

Such has been the substance of this year's final election race between Republican Karl Snow and Democrat Bill Orton, who are vying for the 3rd District congressional seat.It's too bad that most of the time from the primary conventions to the final election is devoted to digging up dirt on each candidate or asking a candidate to explain himself. The blame for that is equally shared by candidates, the media, the candidates' former enemies and both political parties.

There is little time as it is - two months - to find out how the candidates plan to deal with problems facing the nation as our representative in Congress.

In fact, maybe what's needed is a better candidate selection process, one uncovering all the potential flaws of a candidate long before he or she faces voters.

Brigham Young University has a process for selecting student body leaders that is applicable. At BYU, students who'd liked to represent the student body in leadership positions are screened by a selection committee.

The selection committee reviews each candidate's qualifications, related experience, ability to "develop and communicate the vision of the student association," ability to direct the organization in the accomplishment of its mission and standing in the university community.

Even junior high students at one school I know of - Canyon View - have to meet certain basic requirements. So should our aspiring congressional leaders.

Political parties could police themselves. It might work like this: Anyone who wants to run for elective office submits an application to a party-affiliated statewide election committee.

Each committee reviews - extensively - its candidates' qualifications, financial dealings, related experience, legal involvements, ability to forward the party's mission in Congress and ethical and moral standing in a community. Who pays for the review? The candidates.

Obviously, to give such a committee time to complete reviews, primary filing deadlines would have to occur earlier in the year.

The committee disqualifies candidates unable to pass the review. There are bound to be charges of intraparty political finagling. The candidate review process could be subject to suspension by lawsuit, resulting in an uncontested race for the opposing party's primary victor.

That possibility wouldn't prevent all political subterfuge, but it would dispose an election committee toward acting judiciously.

Resulting committee reports are drawn up and distributed before party conventions, at which delegates still have the opportunity to pick the party's contender from surviving candidates.

Election committee representatives from both parties meet and set dates for one pre-primary election debate and one pre-final election debate. Sorry, Bill, that's it for official debates. Costs of the debates are jointly covered by the parties.

Enterprising news operations do additional scoop snooping before the conventions, helping delegates to make sound political choices at the beginning of the election process.

Through the remainder of the primary and final election, the candidates focus on issues, the media focuses on issues and the voters focus on candidates' stands on issues.

What a novel idea.