When our editorial board meets with political Congressional candidates, state representatives or U.S. senators, it is not unusual for them to be accompanied by a staff member. It might be a scheduler or a communications director. We remind them, we are there to talk to the candidate or public official, not them.
From time to time, a candidate will bring someone with them to an endorsement meeting for moral support. If that makes the candidate feel more comfortable, I’m fine with that. One supervisor candidate did that this year.
We try to make the work our editorial board does as transparent as possible from the names of the members – that includes three citizen representatives - to the vote tallies on endorsements.
But when Queensbury Town Board candidate Brian Clements brought Mark Westcott with him this past week, it bothered at least two members of our board.
Westcott is a former Republican at-large supervisor who represented Queensbury who is now Rachel Seeber’s volunteer campaign manager and very active in the local Republican Party.
During the meeting with Clements, two of our board members noted he was furiously scribbling notes. They wondered what he was doing.
I told them, I did not know. Westcott had not asked to join the meeting, but I had not turned him away either. I did inform him he could not talk during the meeting.
I later wondered if Westcott was there on a scouting mission as Seeber’s volunteer campaign manager for her meeting two days later. That seemed far-fetched for a local election, but the more I thought about some of the behavior in this campaign, the more it seemed a possibility.
When Seeber showed up for her meeting on Wednesday, Westcott was with her as well and joined the meeting.
This time, according to one of my colleagues, Westcott was not scribbling notes but holding up his phone as if he might be taping the conversation.
Again, editorial board meetings by the local congresswoman are usually taped as well - such is the paranoia in political circles – and I have no problem with that in the name of transparency.
But upon reflection, I do think it was a mistake to allow Westcott into the meeting with Clements since it could have given Seeber an advantage in knowing what questions we would ask about town issues.
I will be more careful in the future.