There’s no reason readers of this column should have noted this, but my bi-weekly column was to have published last Sunday. There is a story behind the week’s delay, and it concerns an article in the January 3, 2020 edition of the Record-Journal that I thought would make a nifty topic for my column. The topic still stands, but what I am writing is far different.
Jared Liu, the Democratic mayoral candidate for last November’s election, came up with an idea that he put into practice in late December. Apparently, Mr. Liu compared the list that his checkers compiled of the people who voted with the history that the Registrars of Voters compiled of the people who voted in that same election in which he was defeated by around 2,000 votes. Apparently, these two handwritten lists did not agree 100%. There were instances where Mr. Liu’s list showed that a given person voted, but that person was not shown as having voted on the list that the Registrars compiled.
Now, rather than approach those Registrars to see if this was a lone anomaly resulting from human error in the compilation of either list, he decided to take it upon himself to send letters to a certain number of these voters, insinuating that their vote was not counted in the election. This obviously alarmed the recipients of those letters, and they were rightfully concerned.
As was certainly his habit during last year’s mayoral campaign, Jared did not have the curiosity to bring this discrepancy he found to those whose responsibility it is to keep those records. His insinuations — like so many of his campaign planks — were not founded on any actual knowledge of the procedures. There was no attempt to research the topic. He just fired up the ol’ word processor and cranked out the letters.
In the R-J article, it was noted that Democratic Town Committee chairwoman Robin Hettrick said that she was unaware of the letters and of any town committee involvement. I thought that was a significant detail, and I decided to write a column about Liu’s renegade effort to spread concern about the validity of the election. I used the literary device of an imagined conversation between Ms. Hettrick and Mr. Liu. The imagined quotes that I made up were quite pointed.
I submitted the column for publication and, within an hour, I received an email from my editors telling me that the use of made-up quotes was not a good journalistic practice and that the column could not be published as written. I was disappointed at the time, as I had no time to write a revision.
By the following morning, I had rethought my position and saw that they were right to not publish. What I had originally thought was oh-so-clever dialogue was not my best work; the quotes were a bit over the top, and I had gone a little too far trying to be humorous.
In short, I was saved by having someone with better judgment that I was displaying at the time. I was lucky. I have editors to answer to, people whose wisdom in such matters is much deeper than mine.
Now here is where I want to tie things together: in hindsight, I was fortunate to have a wise second opinion, and the result was the avoidance of a mistake. But Jared Liu apparently has no “editors.” At least he did not appear to run his loopy idea by the leadership in his own party, or anyone else, I am guessing, and thus he was free to send out these letters without anyone asking him if just possibly this was an ill-advised move. Once Town Clerk Barbara Thompson explained that the discrepancy has nothing to do with the voting machines, that every vote was indeed counted, and that the problem was a result of an easily explained human error, the story was laid to rest.
Let me conclude with this bit of advice for Mr. Liu: learn what I did. Before you launch something into the wind that might possibly come back to hit you in the face, get an objective second opinion. In my case, I had professionals keep me on track. If you plan any more adventures in politics, I urge you to find one, too.
Stephen Knight is a former Wallingford town councilor.