05 May 2007

A Manufactured Correction

In the May 3, 2007 edition of the Columbia Flier, Barbara Russell wrote a letter to the editor (Party endorsement in village election sets bad precedent) that begins as follows:

I am writing to correct a statement that was attributed to me in the Columbia Flier's coverage of the recent election for Columbia Council representative for Oakland Mills. The April 26 article "New wave on CA board" indicated that I agreed that the endorsement of my opponent sent out by the county executive, the County Council chairman, a delegate to the General Assembly and a former county councilman who was appointed to his current position with the county by the county executive -- all leaders of the county Democratic Party -- was not political. I did not say that.

Reading the above paragraph, most would sympathize with Barbara. However, it should be noted that Barbara Russell’s statement above combines two sentences from two different paragraphs from the article in question. For reference, I have provided the text of the article below, and have added in bold face the two sentences that Barbara Russell references.

Russell, who had not faced an opponent since 2001, was re-elected to an eighth one-year term in Oakland Mills, defeating Ian Kennedy, 302-193.

Russell won despite Kennedy's extensive list of endorsements from Columbia Democrats County Executive Ken Ulman, Del. Guy Guzzone and Howard County Council Chairman Calvin Ball. "I got the endorsement that I want and that is the endorsement of the people of the village," Russell said.

Last October Russell, a registered Democrat, crossed party lines and endorsed Republican Christopher Merdon for county executive against Ulman. But according to Russell and the politicians, the endorsements had nothing to do with county politics.

The first bolded sentence refers to the endorsement of Barbara Russell’s opponent, Ian Kennedy. In this paragraph, reporter Andrei Blakely quotes her directly. In my opinion, her quote in this paragraph is a brash, dismissive statement of a person that has won an election.

The second bolded statement is in a paragraph recounting Barbara Russell’s endorsement of Christopher Merdon for County Executive. Barbara is quoted indirectly here, but the statement appears to be in keeping with statements made last fall regarding her endorsement for County Executive.

What Barbara Russell’s motive was to write the letter is only for her to answer; however, it appears that Barbara Russell, having won the election to be a CA Board Member (and recently appointed Chair of the Board of Directors, kudos Barbara!) either deliberately selected parts of the article to artificially make her point or did not take the time to read the content of the article.

In the balance of her letter to the editor, Barbara Russell opens up her argument to the general case and goes on to say:

[t]his is not about the past election as much as it is about future elections. This is the first time in my memory that leaders of a major political party have joined together to affect the outcome of a local village community association election. I think that sets a bad precedent. The community association elections have been non-partisan in terms of the major political parties and I strongly believe they should remain that way.

While I respect the right of any individual to endorse or support a candidate for any elective office -- and as an individual I have done so myself -- I believe that the residents of Columbia's villages and the Columbia Association itself are not well served by political party endorsements or the appearance of political party endorsements. And, judging by the comments I have received from my constituents, I believe there are many people who agree with this position.

If Barbara Russell is committed to this point of democratic leader interference in Village elections, why the omission of State Delegate Liz Bobo (D)? The Liz Bobo endorsement is raised in the same Columbia Flier article. As a former Howard County Councilperson, former County Executive, and long tenured state delegate, isn’t State Delegate Liz Bobo THE democratic party leader in this county? Given that those who endorsed Barbara Russell’s opponent did so as private citizens, and Delegate Liz Bobo chose to use state funded resources to issue her endorsement, wouldn’t this be an even more egregious “bad precedent?”

In closing, I am also at a loss as to why the Columbia Flier would publish such a letter to the editor. As I have shown, Barbara Russell appears to have selected quotes (and omitted others) from different parts of the news article referenced to make her point. I would think the editors would stand by their staff’s reporting.