The Sacramento Bee
OPINION AND COMMENTARY — A few local Republican political candidates have refused to meet with The Sacramento Bee’s Editorial Board ahead of the June primary. It’s a rejection of the free press by supposed tough guys who seem to fear transparency. It’s a shame, but it’s not surprising.
Two GOP candidates — Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, who is running for Congress, and Rocklin Councilman Joe Patterson, who is running for state Assembly — took to Twitter this week to announce that they won’t meet with The Bee because they don’t think they will get a fair shake. Another, Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, who is running against Jones, declined by email through a representative.
Taking a page from former President Donald Trump’s shtick about journalists being “the enemy of the people,” Jones and Patterson seemed to make the calculation that it’s politically advantageous to duck on-the-record meetings with Bee opinion journalists because like-minded voters would dig that sort of thing.
Like Trump, they’re being cowardly while acting tough.
After 12 years as sheriff, Jones is running to represent the new 3rd Congressional District, which includes Placer, Nevada, Mono, Sierra, Inyo, Plumas and Alpine counties as well as parts of Sacramento, El Dorado and Yuba counties. It’s a conservative seat, no question, and Jones has cultivated the endorsements of conservative firebrands like Rep. Tom McClintock, another politician who ducks The Bee’s questions.
Jones has transformed from a reasonable lawman, one endorsed by The Bee’s Editorial Board in 2010, into a conservative politician addicted to performative demagoguery. This metamorphosis dates to when he ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2016, the year Trump won the White House. In the process, Jones lost touch with the leader he used to be, to his detriment and to ours.
Today Jones is all about pandering and gaslighting. He speaks only to obedient members of the media who feed him softball questions.
We received Jones’ letter stating he wouldn’t meet with us on Monday morning. But it wouldn’t have been Jones if he had simply left it between us and him. Later that day, Jones posted his letter on Twitter, where his cop-out might read as a pandering plea for campaign contributions.
“I will not seek — nor do I want — The Bee’s endorsement,” Jones wrote.
The next day, Patterson also took to Twitter to announce that he wouldn’t meet with us either. In the best tradition of disinformation, he tweeted that “the (Bee) editorial board has spent the past two years attacking my friends in Placer County, including our schools, churches, and elected officials.”
The tweet bore little resemblance to his earlier friendly email to the board, which attributed his unavailability to scheduling conflicts. A candidate in the Placer County-based 5th Assembly District, Patterson had said he couldn’t miss work to meet with us because he has to put food on the table for his kids, joking that his kids “eat a lot.”
Patterson, who was also endorsed by McClintock, didn’t mention any Editorial Board members by name in his subsequent public critique. But Kiley’s surrogate did in an email the same day.
” Hannah Holzer and Jack Ohman have been extremely unprofessional in their vitriolic attacks on Kevin Kiley and his Placer County constituents, and we see no utility in participating in a political ambush masquerading as an editorial board meeting,” the representative wrote.
Ohman, The Bee’s cartoonist, satirized Kiley for his role in last year’s failed attempt to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom. Holzer has written compelling columns about Placer County politicians who undermined mask mandates at the height of the pandemic. She also wrote about Placer County supervisors who played political games that might have disenfranchised voters. And she wrote about a young gay man who said he was shunned by his Placer County church.
A product of Placer County herself and an alum of the same high school as Kiley, Holzer has written the kinds of columns that opinion writers should aspire to write — columns that challenged the status quo. Kiley and several other Placer County officials have been given opportunities to respond to Holzer on numerous occasions but chose not to. Now Patterson and Kiley are apparently afraid to look her in the eye.
If you really have the courage of your convictions, and if you’re running for public office, why would you hide from our questions or miss an opportunity to communicate with voters? Maybe you don’t really support a free press or care about voters who don’t agree with you.
The Bee will endorse in more than 20 races for the June primary, and we will publish our endorsements as well as videos and transcripts of all of our interviews, which readers will have at their disposal by the time the state mails ballots to voters on May 9.
In these interviews, Republicans and Democrats are treated respectfully. Other Republicans are participating in meetings with The Bee, and some of them could be endorsed — just as Jones and Kiley once were.
The charade being performed by Jones, Patterson and Kiley is not unique to Sacramento. The Republican National Committee announced last week that Republican candidates would no longer participate in debates hosted by the Commission on Presidential Debates. The RNC cited “bias.”
Despite all this, the door is still open to Jones, Patterson and Kiley. We want to talk to them. What are they afraid of?
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