Editorial: Upon further review
By Richard Gaw
In the Oct. 28 edition of the Chester County Press, we ran an editorial that came with the headline, "Two campaigns run on ideas, refreshingly.'
In it, we referenced the dissimilar but equally pristine campaigns being run by candidates Whitney Hoffman, a Democrat, and Ted Moxon, a Republican, for a seat on the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors.
"In the race to occupy the Board of Supervisors seat in Kennett Township soon to be vacated by Robert Hammaker, you will find not a trace of vitriol or the finger-pointing accusations that have poisoned so many campaigns, both nationally and here in southern Chester County," we wrote. "Rather, the work that candidates Whitney Hoffman and Ted Moxon are doing in their campaigns to become the next Kennett Township supervisor are to be commended for their Jedi-like focus on the issues that will affect Kennett Township residents for decades to come."
We were duped.
We were embarrassed.
We were gobsmacked.
On Tuesday, Oct. 27 at 3:34 p.m., on the day the Chester County Press was being printed and one day after the editorial was written, we received a press release from the Kennett Area Democrats. It began, "The race for Kennett Township Supervisor just got more interesting. Recently, a small business owner shared with the Kennett Area Democrats some disturbing information about Republican candidate Ted Moxon."
The release, which we have since discovered was sent to other local media centers at that time, attempted to discredit Moxon by disclosing the details of his financial affairs from more than ten years before, even going so far as to provide links to documents filed in Commonwealth courts. The reason for the Kennett Area Democrats to offer these documents to local media, we later found out, was to attempt to undermine Moxon's claim that being the former owner of a "multi-million" dollar company – as his campaign literature mentioned – would give the board an experienced business leader, who was best qualified to handle the finances of the township.
Although she had become aware of this information one day before a debate she had with Moxon, Hoffman wisely chose not to mention it during the event, nor did she publicly share it in the remaining days before the Nov. 3 election. In a private conversation with this newspaper last week, Hoffman said that Moxon's financial information was never going to be a part of her campaign, but she did say that she was advised by her political consultant to toss it into the political mess – that it was a moral responsibility on her part to let voters have this information and let them decide.
On Nov. 3, Hoffman narrowly beat Moxon, capturing two of the township's four precincts, and now sits next to fellow supervisors Scudder Stevens and Dr. Richard Leff.
In hindsight, perhaps it was the obligation of the Chester County Press to take the bait presented to us by the Kennett Area Democrats, and enter into the fray of what may have publicly humiliated Moxon and his family.
There is certainly no moral doctrine that regulates the press, and even the First Amendment of the Constitution, one that binds the press to certain freedoms, is stretched and tinkered with like a hall pass we keep in our desk drawers for when we need it. After deliberating whether or not to fully investigate this story, we made the decision not to. Indeed, the mere mention of it in this editorial is to excoriate the Kennett Area Democrats for attempting to smear an opponent through the local media and, quite possibly, harm the political reputation of the candidate they supported.
We ended our Oct. 27, 2015 editorial this way: "This, however, we choose to weigh in on: That the campaigns of Hoffman and Moxon are each substantive in their platforms and, even more importantly, being conducted on the rare plane of mutual admiration. After Nov. 3, only one will earn enough votes to sit alongside Leff and Stevens next year, but each has already earned our respect."
Former Speaker of the House Eugene "Tip" O'Neill once said that all politics is local. That may be true, but in light of what the Kennett Area Democrats attempted to do last October, all politics do not have to carry the stench of politicizing a private issue.