Under the logic employed by the Durham Herald-Sun, John Ashcroft won the 2000 Missouri Senate race; indeed, he ran "unopposed." Or so you'd have to conclude from the Herald-Sun "votebook" page on D.A. Mike Nifong. The heading? "Candidate is Unopposed."
This revelation will, no doubt, come as news to Mike Ashe, director of the Durham Board of Elections. Last month, Ashe indicated that two, not one, names would appear as candidates for Durham district attorney: Nifong and County Commissioner Lewis Cheek, who collected more than 10,000 signatures to appear as a petition candidate. (The ballot also will contain a space for write-in Steve Monks, a spoiler candidate whose goal seems to be to split the anti-Nifong vote.) For his part, Cheek announced in July that, if elected, he would not serve, leaving Governor Mike Easley to appoint a replacement for Nifong. The replacement would serve until 2008, when another election would occur.
The "votebook" inaccuracy isn't the first time the Herald-Sun has wildly distorted news regarding the Cheek effort. In a July 30 editorial, editor Bob Ashley opined,
On Thursday, Cheek said being district attorney would be too much of a distraction from the business of his Durham law firm, so supporters shouldn't vote for him after all.In fact, Cheek had said exactly the opposite regarding how his supporters might vote. As N&O reporter Benjamin Niolet noted after the county comissioner's press conference,
Cheek . . . said anyone dissatisfied with Nifong could vote for him. Cheek said that he would vote for himself but would stay out of the election and the campaign.Why would Ashley misrepresent Cheek's statement? This error, unfortunately, forms part of a pattern of the Herald-Sun distorting developments that call into doubt Nifong's crusade to bring about a trial. The paper, in fact, never even reported a variety of events that couldn't be spun in a pro-Nifong direction, including but not limited to:
- That Durham city procedures contain General Order 4077, which requires all eyewitness ID lineups to contain five fillers per every suspect, an independent investigator to run the array, and informing the eyewitness that the suspects might or might not be in the array; and that nothing in the General Order allows police, as occurred in this case, to conduct a photo ID lineup with the accuser whose results are then ignored.
- That because of these procedural improprieties, Duke law professor James Coleman, a former chief counsel to the House Ethics Committee (when the Democrats controlled the House), publicly demanded appointment of a special prosecutor.
Perhaps Ashley's insistence on describing Nifong as "unopposed" and informing his readers that Cheek said "supporters shouldn't vote for him after all" suggests that he fears the strength of the Recall Nifong-Vote Cheek movement. The group looks and acts very much like a campaign that is urging Durham County residents to vote against the "unopposed" district attorney by selecting the other name on the ballot:
- The RN-VC effort is raising money.
- It soon will be distributing campaign signs.
- It has received public endorsements from Durham residents.
- Its coordinator, Beth Brewer, has made public appearances urging voters to select Cheek, the name on the ballot other than the "unopposed" district attorney.
[Update, 1.18pm: John in Carolina has a revealing comparison between how the N&O (fairly) and the Herald-Sun (with bias) covered the Nifong motion of yesterday.]