Tuesday, October 31, 2006

When Not Being Endorsed is Good News

(Editors note: this guest column was submitted by an anonymous reader for your reading pleasure.)

The campaign of Marc Elrich breathed a sigh of relief Saturday when it learned that the Washington Post had NOT endorsed Elrich for Montgomery County Council. “It looks like we’ve dodged a bullet,” said Dale Tibbitts, Elrich’s campaign manager, adding that, by escaping the endorsement, Elrich’s reputation for independent thinking and working on behalf of citizens’ interests would remain intact.

The campaign received a similar boost during the Democratic primary when neither the Post nor the Gazette endorsed Elrich, who later placed second in the primary contest for one of the four at-large seats on the Council. An unlucky candidate who wasn’t able to avoid the Post’s “approval” lost the primary race, perhaps as a consequence of the newspaper’s robust backing: “A no-show at too many council meetings, his caustic temper has alienated colleagues and constituents alike. We endorse him….” When asked if that endorsement made a difference in the election, Kevin Gillogly, a member of Elrich’s team observed, “You just can’t underestimate the power of the editorial boards’ prose in helping voters to make up their minds.”

Not all newspapers make public statements of support for candidates. As a matter of editorial policy, the Montgomery County Sentinel does not make campaign endorsements because it believes voters have the capacity to develop an opinion as informed as any editor’s.

As for those papers that do publicly endorse candidates, it is not altogether clear whether they help voters make sense of the newspaper’s priorities. Some political observers suggest that national newspapers like the Post have a quota on the number of progressive candidates they will support lest they be labeled as part of the “liberal media establishment.” Others say that newspapers have an important obligation to their advertising base. According to Keith Berner, a campaign consultant, you “can’t blame the Post for endorsing developers’ minions when you consider the size of the Saturday Real Estate section.”

In the upcoming general election for at-large candidates, the Post has thrown its weight behind all of the nominated Democrats except Marc Elrich, choosing instead to support Republican Steve Abrams, a candidate not elected in the primary but who wangled onto the ticket by pressuring another Republican nominee (the only African-American) to step aside. No one was more surprised than Abrams’ own supporters. “Its baffling,” said a source close to the Abrams campaign. “Steve is for assault weapons, supports the Ficker amendment (to cap taxes) and approves of using county police to round up immigrants, all issues the Post editorial board has taken a stand against. He’s even lukewarm to the Purple Line!” Nevertheless, the editorial board selected Abrams as among those it believes will provide Montgomery County with outstanding leadership in the coming years, adding that “His manner is often off-putting, as is his constant quest for public office. Mr. Abrams flits from one candidacy to another and is running for council now only because his bid for state comptroller failed.”

Given that kind of verbal backing for Abrams, the Elrich campaign expressed optimism for their candidate’s prospects on November 7. “The fact that the Post does not seem to be aware of Marc’s existence seems to be working in his favor,” said supporters Marcie Stickle and George French. Added campaign worker Mary Reardon, “It’s remarkable how relevant a newspaper can be in a kind of irrelevant way.”

When contacted about the non-endorsement of Elrich, a member of the Post editorial Board, who chose to remain anonymous, explained its decision simply. “Because we had endorsed Ehrlich for Governor,” said the source, “we didn’t think we should also endorse one of his relatives for the County Council.”


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the sarcasm. We need more political wit here!

11/01/2006 01:15:00 PM  

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