Press and media should not recommend or endorse City Council candidates

Candidate Endorsing
Candidate Endorsing

EditorialSebastian Daily has always made it our policy not to recommend or endorse local candidates running for election, especially when it comes to the city council.

As the local press in Sebastian, we believe it is our job to allow the candidates to voice why they are the best choice. During elections, the press should educate, provide accurate information, and host a forum for voters when necessary. Without these basic principles that we have adopted, the press can influence or sway an election.

Years ago, we tried to endorse a few candidates running in a Barefoot Bay election. We learned that voters do not want the press to provide endorsements. They want information and facts about each candidate before going to the polls.

Last weekend, we were in disbelief over a couple of articles that TCPalm published about the Sebastian recall election. As a result, it made many people in Sebastian outraged.

We believe it was shameful that an outside news agency, headquartered two counties away from Sebastian, would endorse two people for the recall election simply because they were available the day Larry Reisman of TCPalm beckoned them.

As a result, and in our opinion, Reisman and the TCPalm editorial board did not make an educated decision, or proper evaluation, when recommending two candidates for the Sebastian recall election.

Eight candidates are running in the recall election. Their quick decision to recommend the two candidates, only because they showed up for their forum, was a great disservice to Sebastian residents.

The City of Sebastian is already in enough political turmoil, and TCPalm just made it worse for the voters.

Six of the recall candidates did not show up for the TCPalm forum because their editorial board invited Damien Gilliams. Also, one of the candidates could not be present because he underwent emergency hernia surgery. All of this was explained to TCPalm and Reisman.

“It was completely wrong for TCPalm to invite Damien Gilliams to the forum. I don’t blame the candidates for not going,” Mayor Ed Dodd said.

Sebastian Daily also hosted a forum but did not invite Damien Gilliams, Pamela Parris, and Charles Mauti as they are up for recall. These three have already been campaigning during every Council meeting. Our forum was about the new candidates running against the three who are up for recall.

While TCPalm invited the three, none showed, including Gilliams, who bellyached that we did not invite him to the Sebastian Daily forum.

Bob McPartlan, who’s running in the recall election, has participated in a forum with TCPalm at least six times. They know all about his experience and credentials. He explained to Reisman why he would not be present.

“I spoke with Larry Reisman last Monday after the special meeting for 30 minutes. I again explained that I had conflicts and had to undergo emergency hernia surgery on Wednesday and was physically unable to participate. However, none of that was in his article. I continued to answer questions from him concerning many other city topics again, none mentioned. I’ve appeared before their editorial board 6 times in the past and spoke with him several times over the years. Reisman should know exactly where I stand. I served the citizens of Sebastian for 8 years on the Council with a record that I’m proud of and continue serving our community for 20 years in numerous other capacities. I believe my record speaks for itself,” McPartlan said.

We then reached out to Christopher Nunn, also a candidate in the recall election.

“I saw the TCPalm editorial board’s endorsement for the two candidates only because they showed up for their forum. I also saw where Larry Reisman published my email response on why I didn’t participate but left out where I challenged them to do better. TCPalm has shown through this entire recall, and after every city council meeting, their opinion that it’s somehow ok what the three council members are doing. They never give both sides, so the question I have is if they report the news with an opinion and the opinion is always against the City of Sebastian and what’s best for its citizens, then why would I do a forum with them,” Nunn said.

We then reached out to Fred Jones, a candidate running in the recall election.

“I was not comfortable participating in the forum due to the platform given with the three candidates up for recall,” Jones said.

Louise Kautenburg, also running in the recall election, said the TCPalm forum was inappropriate.

“I elected not to participate because I was under the impression that they would also be offering the same sort of interview to Damien Gilliams, Pamela Parris, and Charles Mauti, which I felt was not appropriate. The 3 recall council persons all had the opportunity to respond in writing about why they should not be recalled. Their responses were printed on every petition (2nd round). They have also all had a televised open opportunity to show their positions at every city council meeting. While I do think that people should avail themselves of all possible local news sources, I just felt the TCPalm forum did not establish a level playing field, but rather played into that which Mr. Gilliams enjoys most – Chaos,” Kautenburg said.

Dave Newhart, who was one of the candidates who attended the TCPalm forum, said he respected the decision of those who did not participate.

“An article was published in TCPalm about the candidates and forum they hosted. I respect the decision of those who did not participate. I did participate. The reason was to gain their perspective. If elected, there will be other articles, and I want to be on speaking terms with them to discuss their position if it differs and appears to be bias,” Newhart said.

In a recent editorial by Reisman, he also called Sebastian Daily a “community website” without recognizing us as a local news source.

During most City Council meetings, Gilliams has tried to belittle me or act condescending towards Sebastian Daily staff.

Gilliams has also used his time during the meetings to call our news organization a “blog,” “thugs,” or “not a real newspaper like TCPalm.”

We had an average of 600 people watching our live candidates forum, but TCPalm had an average of 19 people watching their live forum. So far, we’ve had 11,000 total views for our forum (totals from Facebook & YouTube), while TCPalm has nearly 2,200 total views.

Call us what you will. We work extremely hard, and it’s obvious the people in Sebastian are engaged and reading our local news.

Sebastian Daily has been at every city council meeting since November in order to keep Sebastian residents informed.

We love Sebastian and know better days are ahead.

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About Andy Hodges
Andy Hodges was born in Annapolis, Maryland and raised in Jupiter, Florida. Andy has been a radio & TV personality since the 1980s. He has worked for WLIZ, WFLX-FOX 29, WIRK, WIXI, WKSY, WRMF, and WJNO to name a few. After spending 7 years in Atlanta, Georgia during the 1990s, Andy returned to Florida and settled in the small town of Sebastian in 2000. In 2005, he returned to the broadcasting news sector and eventually joined our news team in 2016 as editor in chief. Andy's family has lived in Sebastian for more than 45 years.