Misleading mailer: Sheila Kuehl makes too much of L.A. Times editorial

Sheila Kuehl's mailer implies the L.A. Times endorsed her. In fact, it backed John Duran

Registered voters in L.A. County’s 3rd Supervisorial District may have been confused by two mailers that, at least in my house, arrived on the same day this week. Both reference a May 15 editorial in the Los Angeles Times, in which the editorial board endorsed a candidate in the June 3 primary.

“What does the Los Angeles Times say about Sheila Kuehl and Bobby Shriver?” one mailer asks the reader. Flip it open and the flier contains snippets of the editorial with key phrases highlighted in yellow. Kuehl has “encyclopedic knowledge” that would be a “great benefit to the county,” while Shriver was “antagonizing” and “shows too little evidence that he understands the complexity of the county’s challenges and possible solutions.”

The mailer concludes with a photo of Kuehl and these words: “On June 3 the choice is crystal clear.” All of which makes it appear that The Times endorsed former state Sen. Kuehl in the supervisor’s race. Except it didn’t.

In fact, that May 15 editorial was an endorsement of West Hollywood Councilman John Duran, who doesn’t even get a mention in Kuehl’s mailer. Apparently, she’s targeted Shriver, who has greater name recognition and nearly $2 million in campaign funds.

Duran used the editorial in his own flier that hit mailboxes around the same time as Kuehl’s. The cover declares: “The LA Times endorses John Duran for supervisor,” and it quotes the editorial as saying he “provides a fresh perspective badly needed in county government.”

As a member of The Times editorial board, I was both amused and perturbed by Kuehl’s campaign mailer. It’s misleading, but it’s not inaccurate. It does not explicitly say The Times endorsed her, and it accurately quotes the editorial, which did, in fact, say many nice things about her. (Here’s more about The Times endorsement process.)

There was a lot of debate among the editorial board members over the merits of Kuehl’s “encyclopedic knowledge” or Duran’s “fresh perspective.” It was close, but Duran got the edge. 

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