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Hometown Disadvantage

By Edward Ericson Jr. | Posted 10/6/2004

Considering that President George W. Bush has spent nearly as much time on his Crawford, Texas, ranch as he has in Washington this year, it’s fair to say that the 700 citizens of that Texas town know Bush better than most. And so one might expect the hometown newspaper, The Lone Star Iconoclast (circulation, about 425), to bring some insight into the campaign. One might not expect the weekly newspaper to endorse Bush’s opponent, Sen. John Kerry. But that’s what the paper did in an 1,800-word editorial on Sept. 28.

Decrying Bush’s mishandling of the economy, Social Security, homeland security, and the war in Iraq, Editor W. Leon Smith, a self-described “conservative Democrat,” endorsed Kerry, “based not only on the things that Bush has delivered, but also on the vision of a return to normality that Kerry says our country needs.”

The paper, which Smith founded in 2000, backed Bush and supported the Iraq war editorially. During the past two years, however, its editorial stance has turned against the president.

“When we discovered that there were no weapons of mass destruction [in Iraq], I figured I’d been had,” says Smith, who also serves as mayor of Clifton, Texas, and publisher of its newspaper, the Record. Smith tells City Paper that he and his two Iconoclast co-staffers, Don M. Fisher and Nathan Diebenow, “were very much on the same page” in regard to the Kerry endorsement. “We wanted to concentrate on long-range issues—Social Security, stem-cell research,” Smith says. “We wanted to apply the approach they were going to take on those issues. We were getting pretty upset with the [campaign] commercials.”

Smith said on Friday, Oct. 1, that he had so far received 371 e-mails about the endorsement, of which he claimed 90 percent were supportive. Of the remaining 10 percent, “some . . . are pretty nasty,” he says.

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