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Republican Gerald Daugherty, seeking re-election to the Travis County commissioners court, is "endorsed by" Austin’s daily newspaper, an advocacy group told select members.
Hold that pony. The Austin American-Statesman, which is headquarters for PolitiFact Texas, announced in May 2016 its editorial board wouldn’t be endorsing candidates going forward.
So we were curious when a reader asked us to check the Daugherty endorsement claim spotted in an Austin Board of Realtors PAC mailer. Separately, we fielded a copy of the mailer from Jonathan Panzer, campaign manager for David Holmes, a mediator and the Democratic nominee facing Daugherty, a businessman, to represent the county’s Precinct 3.
To be sure, Daugherty was endorsed by the newspaper in early 2016. That February, the American-Statesman editorial board urged readers to favor Daugherty over Jason Nassour in the March 2016 Republican primary.
"Republicans should stick with the incumbent," that editorial said after calling Daugherty "an important compass for the commissioners court on matters of fiscal responsibility" who "has shown an ability to prod his predictably blue colleagues to the right despite his minority status."
But in May 2016, American-Statesman editors announced the newspaper would no longer endorse candidates for office--and that announcement was followed by the paper making no candidate endorsements leading up to the November 2016 general election.
In a May 21, 2016, article describing changes in the paper's opinion pages, editors said: "Perhaps the most significant philosophical change as we adjust resources is that we will no longer endorse political candidates, although we will weigh in as necessary on ballot measures and other issues."
That article, by the paper’s editor, Debbie Hiott, and Viewpoints editor, Tara Trower Doolittle, went on: "The sheer number of candidates in a metropolitan area this size and the number of editorial writers we have makes it challenging to add to the contours of the electoral debate. In the last" Austin City Council "cycle, our board met with more than 120 political candidates. In the most recent primary season, we held more than two dozen meetings and we declined to endorse in a number of statewide and county races in our readership area. We also have been increasingly forced to not endorse in races where candidates have chosen to skip the interview process altogether."
So, we wondered how the Realtors group concluded Daugherty had snagged the paper's general-election backing.
By phone and email, an ABOR representative, Emily Chenevert, said the mailer--sent independently and not in coordination with Daugherty, she said--was incorrect and 3,000 recipients, among the group’s more than 11,000 members, would receive a corrective email. Chenevert further told us that "we made the mistake of not clarifying that Commissioner Daugherty was endorsed by the Statesman in the primary. We recognize that no endorsement was made by the Statesman for the general election."
Earlier the same day, we confirmed that Daugherty’s campaign website said he was endorsed by the American-Statesman, an element brought to our attention by the reader:
SOURCE: Gerald Daugherty’s campaign website (screen grab, Oct. 31, 2016)
To our queries about that, Daugherty noted by phone that he had been endorsed by the newspaper before the primary. Since then, he said, he’s guilty of not changing the pre-primary endorsement mention on his site. "I probably should have gone in there and said ‘in the primary,’" Daugherty said. The same day, he called back to say his site had since been amended to say he was "endorsed in the March Republican primary only," a change we confirmed.
Generally too, we asked Hiott to weigh in on anyone touting pre-primary endorsements in the context of the 2016 general elections. She replied by email: "Every candidate knows that an endorsement is made within the context of a particular race and particular opponents. To then present it as an endorsement in another race is disingenuous at best."
ABOR’s mailer says Daugherty is endorsed by the American-Statesman.
The newspaper did not endorse Daugherty or any candidate before the November 2016 general election after editors earlier announced the paper wouldn’t endorse candidates going forward.
We rate this claim False.
FALSE – The statement is not accurate. Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.
Commentary, "Hiott, Doolittle: More changes coming to Statesman Viewpoints," Debbie Hiott, Tara Trower Doolittle, American-Statesman, posted online May 21, 2016
Editorials making party primary endorsements, American-Statesman, "Support Hinojosa in House District 49, Workman in District 47," Jan. 26, 2016; "Travillion, Daugherty have right experience for Travis County Opinion By Editorial Board," Feb. 3, 2016; "GOP incumbents in U.S. House primaries; Gallaher, Vakil top Democrats," Feb. 15, 2016; "Texas needs your voice — go vote!," Feb. 29, 2016
Email and telephone interview, Emily Chenevert, director of operations, Austin Board of Realtors, Oct. 31, 2016
Email, Debbie Hiott, editor, American-Statesman, Oct. 31, 2016
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