It is interesting how a story can morph. In a recent post in my Times Union Watch series I pointed out that reporter Wendy Liberatore had incorrectly stated that Mayor Meg Kelly had no opponent in the fall election. In fact, Tim Holmes has secured the Republican mayoral line for this year’s election.
Unbeknownst to me, Todd Kerner, the Chairman of the Saratoga County Democratic Committee, forwarded that blog post to Rex Smith, the editor of the Times Union, also expressing concern about these errors and voicing his frustration in general with Wendy Liberatore’s reporting.
In response, Rex Smith supported Ms. Liberatore’s report and also denied that Mayor Kelly had an opponent. Avoiding even referencing Tim Holmes’ name, he said that the “possible candidate” had not announced and was not even sure that he was going to run. He ended by saying “Please do not accuse us of bias with factually incorrect information.”
Kerner, who is an attorney and has done quite a bit of election law, was amazed at this response. Kerner pointed out to Rex Smith that Tim Holmes is indeed a candidate whether he has announced or not because
“(1) he filed petitions and did not decline during the declination period, and (2) he has an active filing with the NYS board of elections.”
Kerner added “He is on the ballot therefore he is opposing Meg Kelly. Period. If you don’t believe me call the Saratoga County Board of Elections or even the NYS board. ”
I called Mr. Holmes himself. He had been unaware of the article but was unequivocal regarding his commitment to run for mayor.
I wrote to Rex Smith advising him of this and received an email from Ms. Liberatore. She wrote that her understanding was that Holmes had not decided whether to run or not and that unless she heard from him (rather than me), she would continue in the belief that he was not running.
I cop to being a little snarky because I wrote back saying it appeared that the only way she would be convinced of his candidacy would be either his announcement or seeing his name on the ballot this November.
The matter was soon settled as a few minutes later she was CC’d on an email from Mr. Holmes announcing that he was indeed a candidate for mayor of the city of Saratoga Springs .
In his correspondence with Rex Smith Todd Kerner writes that he is “shocked that the TU can say that Meg Kelly has no opposition” and asks for a retraction/clarification. At this point there has been no reply from the TU.
I feel compelled to continue being snarky by pointing out that Rex Smith is on a weekly WAMC show on which he offers his expertise on how the media should comport themselves.
Below are the relevant emails. They are not long and they have a certain comic aspect to them.
To: Rex Smith
From: Todd Kerner
Subject: Liberatore Article
Date: June 15, 2019
This blogger has now made it a cause to point out Wendy’s issues. You should stay with this as you can see even moderates are not happy with her reporting. It’s tainting the TU as being biased. Too bad because I have been a reader for 30+ years and have been an avid fan.
Todd M. Kerner, Chair
Saratoga County Democratic Committee
From: Saratoga Springs Politics <email@example.com>
Date: June 15, 2019 at 8:18:13 PM EDT
Subject: [New post] Times Union Watch
Reply-To: Saratoga Springs Politics
John Kaufmann posted: “In a story in today’s edition of the Times Union, Wendy Liberatore refers to Billy McTygue as William McTague. She also writes that Mayor Meg Kelly is running unopposed. In fact she is being challenged by Republican Tim Holmes.”
From: “Smith, Rex” <RSmith@TimesUnion.com>
Date: Sunday, June 16, 2019 at 12:10 PM
To: “Todd M. Kerner” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: [New post] Times Union Watch
Sorry for the misspelling — no excuse for that.
But the blogger is incorrect to say that the mayor has a Republican opponent. The possible candidate named here has not announced, nor even decided whether or not to run. Please do not accuse us of bias with factually incorrect information.
Tim Holmes is a candidate for Mayor of Saratoga Springs. He will be on the ballot. He filed his petitions and they were certified. To say he is not a candidate is just not accurate. Whether he has made a formal announcement or not is irrelevant. Also, to say he has not decided to run is wrong for two reasons: (1) he filed petitions and did not decline during the declination period, and (2) he has an active filing with the NYS board of elections.
I have done quite a bit of election law and am shocked that the TU can say Meg Kelly has no opposition. I would ask for a retraction/clarification.
In addition, this is why I called you weeks ago, that Wendy’s reporting and her selection of stories is biased. When she does stories they often contain errors. The errors seem to always be on the side of her acquaintances. Not surprisingly her coverage of Saratoga Springs is symbolic of that. I have never complained or called you in all my years as county chair, but I must confront her reporting and will not let it go unchallenged. I am surprised though that in this day when newspapers are fighting social media to stay alive the TU would allow itself to be no different than many social media outlets. I guess the fact people are talking about her stories, not about the substance, but about the bias shown is irrelevant to the number of hits to her stories. I am just disappointed in the TU that instead of taking a look at her writing you would double down and defend it.
If you have any doubt whether Meg Kelly is opposed, you should confirm that with either the Republican or Democratic Commissioner of Elections for Saratoga County.
I am also available to any reporter or editor at the TU. I will not talk to Wendy as I have no faith in her reporting. I believe this is becoming more common throughout the County. That is a disservice to the readership of the TU, including me.
I cannot believe that he says because the person under NYS ELECTION LAW who is on the ballot is not an opponent because he has not announced or decided to run. I am flabbergasted that he does not know under the election law that when someone petitions after the declination period you cannot get off the ballot except in limited cases. Nonetheless he is an opponent. They are closing the ranks at the TU. I am not letting drop as this is to easy to show how wrong their reporting is in SS.
In your email to Mr. Kerner you state:
“The possible candidate named here [JK: TIm Holmes] has not announced, nor even decided whether or not to run”
Tim Holmes cares deeply about our city. His decision to run was neither frivolous nor impulsive.
Do you know under NYS election law once petitioning is done and the 3 day declination period elapses you are on the ballot. Do you know this year that was moved up to March. Mr. Holmes filed petitions for Mayor and did not decline the nomination. He is on the ballot therefore he is opposing Meg Kelly. Period. If you don’t believe me call the Saratoga County Board of Elections or even the NYS board. By the way, Is it true that the GOP commissioner also refuses to speak to you because of the same issues we are discussing.
I am on the ballot for the November election as a candidate for Mayor, on the Republican line, having filed appropriately as the NYS BOE would attest.