Newspapers all over the country no longer endorse or, as The Fresno Bee says, “recommend” candidates in political contests.
The Arizona Republic became the latest last week, writing that its readers “don’t want their daily newspaper or news website telling them which candidates and which party should get their votes.”
That decision attracted national attention because of one important fact. In 2016, the Republic angered many of its readers by recommending a Democrat for president — and not Donald Trump — for the first time in its then 126-year history.
The Republic had lots of company. Hillary Clinton registered a landslide victory on the nation’s editorial pages, according to the American Presidency Project. By the website’s count, Clinton received 57 endorsements from the nation’s 100 largest newspapers and Trump just two. Twenty-six newspapers didn’t make an endorsement in the 2016 election.
Bee Endorses Valadao Over Cox for Congress
That brings us to The Fresno Bee, which still recommends candidates to readers. Most of its recommendations don’t matter much. That’s because they’re largely predictable and newspapers no longer are kingmakers.
But it’s my belief that when a newspaper does the unexpected voters pay attention. And that’s exactly what happened last week when The Bee Editorial Board, which leans to the left, recommended Republican David Valadao over Democratic incumbent TJ Cox in the 21st Congressional District.
That is a big deal because Cox ousted Valdadao from the seat by just 862 votes in 2018. This year’s race figures to be a nail-biter, too, even though Democrats hold about a 17% voter registration edge over the GOP.
Bee Cites Cox’s Business Problems
What did Cox do to lose The Bee’s backing?
It wasn’t his legislative record, the editorial board said. Instead, it was his business dealings.
“Not paying workers their wages. Not paying taxes. And, with the razor-thin victory two years ago, not a mandate for Cox to represent the 21st,” The Bee stated.
Moreover, The Bee praised Valadao for his efforts on immigration reform and bringing more irrigation water to the Valley for agriculture and safe drinking water for communities.
November Will Provide the Answers
Under California’s top-2 primary system, the congressional representative for Kings County and parts of Fresno, Tulare, and Kern counties won’t be decided until the general election.
The last time around, Valdado captured nearly 63% of the vote in the primary only to see Cox ride the Democratic Party’s “Blue Wave” to a headline-grabbing comeback victory.
Come this November, we’ll find out if Valadao can author his own comeback story. And, if surprising Fresno Bee endorsements have the power to sway voters.