To The Editor:

I am writing today in the interest of fairness as we approach the upcoming primary election for Mayor and City Council.  In America, we have a tradition of news organizations, primarily newspapers, making endorsements in political races as a way to inform their readers about important facets of the campaign as they relate to the candidates for office. Regardless of the publication, it is important that readers know these endorsements are fair and unbiased. 

According to campaign finance reports, Mayor Allison Silberberg’s largest campaign contributor, and the largest contribution made thus far for either Mayoral campaign, is from Suzanne Brock who has contributed $5,000 to the Mayor’s reelection bid. Suzanne Brock is also listed on the Alexandria Times’ masthead as an owner of the paper. In my time as Mayor I have always strived for an open and transparent City Hall. I believe that we should expect the same from political campaigns and our press corps. That is why I believe the Alexandria Times should NOT endorse in this year’s Mayoral contest on June 12th as it presents the clear specter of a conflict of interest. How can one of the City’s largest newspapers objectively endorse any candidate when one of their principals has made such a significant financial contribution to one of the candidates?

Based on public campaign finance reports, which are available to the public, Mayor Allison Silberberg has an oversized and outsized contribution from an owner of the Alexandria Times. In my memory I cannot recall a newspaper owner making such a larger donation to a political campaign, recognizing the need to remain independent. Mayor Silberberg would be the clear benefactor from an endorsement from the Alexandria Times, and I believe that would do a disservice to readers who have yet to make up their mind about this race.

In these times where the Chief Executive of our country constantly harps on fake news and the lack of fairness, I believe it is paramount that the media look to preserve their independence and objectivity. This opportunity is a chance for the Alexandria Times to display its commitment to fairness and propriety by remaining neutral in their endorsement in the Mayor’s race.

In full disclosure, I have decided to endorse Vice Mayor Justin Wilson for Mayor and I believe strongly that his progressive vision for our future is what our city needs now. His dedication to funding for pre-kindergarten programs, increased investments in infrastructure such as school buildings, sewers and road paving as well as his ability to build consensus on City Council makes Justin Wilson the right candidate to be our Mayor.

However, the Alexandria Times has a duty to be an independent referee in all political contests. The Alexandria Times has been consistent in stating their belief that elected officials should not vote on items where they have a financial interest, a standard that I upheld as Mayor, and I believe that the Times should be held to their own standard in this case.  I am confident that the Times will recognize that reason and fairness trumps any appearance of a conflict of interest, especially their own.

Kerry Donley
Former Alexandria Democratic Mayor and Current Alexandria Resident