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Elections Are Not Only About Issues: An Open Letter to Kate Sears

The following letter has been sent to Marin County Supervisor, Kate Sears.

Dear Supervisor Sears:

I am writing to you, not as the publisher of the Marin Post or the president of Community Venture Partners, but as an individual voter, a resident of Mill Valley, and one of your constituents in the 3rd District. As such, I’m sure you will agree that you have an obligation to represent me and to respond to my concerns. This is not an unreasonable request.

As soon as I received information about the existence of your opinion poll, I contacted you and offered you the opportunity to comment on it. The emails requesting your comments were not accusatory, but simply explained what we were being told by survey participants. I asked you if you hired the polling firm, FM3. I gave you several chances to comment on this story before it was published.

You consciously chose not to respond.

Do you believe this is the proper way to deal with questions from those you represent?

I’ve sat through Board of Supervisor’s hearings and candidate debates, and listened to you talk about the importance of transparency in government. This was your opportunity to do that. Yet, you chose to hide behind consultants and professional handlers.

The response I finally received, the one you personally instructed Mr. Terris to provide, was tactical. You and I both know that an attempt to smear an opponent based on idle gossip about what an unrelated third party might or might not have done, in the past, is among the lowest forms of misdirection and “dirty tricks” politics. And even if someone else had done something untoward in the past, isn’t that just another reason to not do the same: to set a better example?

The sources for the articles published in the Marin Post, All the Supervisor’s Men and The Devil Made Me Do It, were your constituents and your peers, here in Marin. They are all respected professionals, between the ages of 50 and 65, with families and businesses in Marin, and residing in your District. Some are conservatives while others are liberal progressives. All are known to us as credible sources. Other than in one instance, none of them even know each other. Yet, their independent accounts to us of their experiences taking the “opinion poll,” that you admit to have commissioned, are virtually identical.

All accounts include being told, multiple times, by the surveyor, that “people say” that Koch Brothers’ money is backing the campaign of Susan Kirsch, your opponent. They were all then asked, multiple times, if this “information” changed their mind about who to vote for. There is no question that the survey questions were “responsive” and changed based on the bias of the participant. Some participant’s survey’s lasted twenty minutes while other lasted as long as an hour. Since publication, we’ve received reports that if a participant was a Kate Sears supporter, at the outset, the survey was shorter and less aggressive.

Don’t you think you owe your constituents an explanation? I can assure you this is not how most people in Marin, want political campaigns to be conducted.

It now appears the survey has been discontinued. I have asked Mr. Terris to confirm that, but not received a response. If it has been discontinued, would you care to comment on that?

It might surprise you to know that none of this was motivated by partisan politics. In my 24 years of community involvement in Marin, I’ve never endorsed any candidates running for any office, and I will not be endorsing anyone for County Supervisor in this race. I’ve never been affiliated with any political party in my life. If I had gotten emails or complaints from the community about Susan Kirsch, or anyone else running for office, they would have received the same scrutiny. But the fact is I have not.

You’ll probably also be surprised to know that prior to publication, Susan Kirsch knew no more about our investigation into the survey than you did. She received an email, just as you did, briefly describing what we were finding and asking her if she cared to comment on it.

My personal goals are simple: more transparent and more responsible local government.

Perhaps other Marin publications probably consider this self-inflicted “SurveyGate” a “kerfuffle” that’s too trivial to bother with. I don’t. I think it’s the heart of the matter.

The articles noted above, received some of the highest “hit” counts of anything ever published on the Marin Post. Our analytics show that readers were mostly from local IP addresses in Southern Marin, which indicates they may be voters in your District. For every email we received criticizing our running of these articles, we received 20 supporting it.

I realize that in these times, many people feel that those who stand up for principles in politics are hopelessly naïve or even suckers. It is fashionable to be cynical, and operate from that perspective, which often parades about as being “politically sophisticated.” But the truth is people do care deeply about transparency, personal honesty and integrity; as well they should, because at the end of the day, elections aren’t really about issues or policy positions.

Elections are about personal character.

The issues of the day will come and go, but those elected to represent us remain in office long after today’s big issues are old news. Electing someone based on one particular issue is short-sighted, because when the next "issue of the day" inevitably arises, all we will have is the hope that the person we elected has the moral character and ethical compass to stand up for what is right.

We live in cynical times. It’s a sickness that’s logic is so self-fulfilling and circular that it makes a grasp of truth or fairness nearly impossible. People see conspiracy in everything. But believe it or not, some of us are actually working to rise above that.

You can help us all do that. Let's keep this campaign an upfront and clean race. And may the best candidate win.


Bob Silvestri