Over the past week, leaders and candidates affiliated with the Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town (CHALT) have started telling people across Chapel Hill and Carrboro not to trust:

– local media

– The Daily Tar Heel

– endorsements

– Triangle Blog Blog

– candidate forums (the only place where we get to see candidates verbally answer the same question at the same time)

David Adams, a former coordinator in CHALT and a current town council candidate, told students at a UNC forum last week not to “rely on the Daily Tar Heel.” This came a day after the Daily Tar Heel published an 1,800-word piece investigating a possibly illegal campaign event held by CHALT and/or Friends of Bolin Creek, which shares a PO BOX with CHALT. David Fahrenhold, the Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist, praised the DTH’s reporting on Twitter.

On Facebook, Adams reiterated that people should not “rely on second-hand opinions from others, especially the local media, and CERTAINLY not TBB.” This has been repeated by other candidates on the Searing slate.

CHALT has always endorsed candidates

One of the key functions of CHALT has been to endorse candidates. And lots of people are asking who they’re endorsing this year.

Over the weekend, we started to see social media comments and columns appear online, telling us not to trust group endorsements this year. One was shared in the CHALT newsletter today.

This is curious, in part because CHALT has endorsed in every election cycle since 2015, and also because CHALT decided who they were supporting in this year’s election cycle last spring, when they began working with Adam Searing to form a slate of candidates who aligned with their perspectives.

But David Adams emphatically stated last week on Facebook that CHALT had not yet endorsed. And today, they touted the column about why one shouldn’t trust group political endorsements.

That’s weird for a group that has endorsed in every previous election cycle.

First, we should state the obvious: CHALT is endorsing this year, but they won’t say the words.

CHALT has a PAC called the Chapel Hill Leadership Political Action Committee. The Chapel Hill Leadership Political Action Committee may not be a name you recognize, but they have sent out mailers, door hangers, and other material for Adam Searing, Elizabeth Sharp, Renuka Soll, Breckany Eckhardt, and David Adams. If you’ve gotten a mailer touting all five candidates and see Chapel Hill Leadership Political Action Committee at the bottom, that’s CHALT’s PAC. On the CHALT social media accounts, they have heavily promoted their slate. On the CHALT website, the candidate slate they support is listed on their donation page. They’ve held events for that slate of candidates.

This mailer was sent by CHALT’s PAC, the Chapel Hill Leadership Political Action Fund. We covered up the address and highlighted the funder.

But they won’t say the words “we endorse” and none of the mailers contain the CHALT logo or name. And here’s why.

CHALT knows that CHALT is not popular

In the last election cycle, after bullying a high school student, CHALT went one for three in its endorsements. A survey conducted after that cycle from Public Policy Polling also indicated CHALT’s unfavorable brand: just 26 percent of participants reported having a favorable view of the organization. Forty percent claimed to have an unfavorable view of CHALT, and 34 percent responded “not sure.”

By wink-wink endorsing, CHALT can get all of the benefits of endorsing, while gaslighting and critiquing other endorsements

So far, CHALT (and a 501(c)(4) organization based in Arizona that didn’t send questionnaires to all of the candidates) are alone in endorsing the Searing slate this year.

  • In Chapel Hill, Anderson and the five candidates not affiliated with CHALT (Ryan, McCullough, Mitchell, Valera, and Nollert) are receiving endorsements – from the AFL-CIO to Sunrise Durham (Chapel Hill) to ours (Chapel Hill) to civic leaders in our community (former Chapel Hill mayors, The Anderson-Thorpe-Battle Breakfast Club) to basketball players (Armando Bacot).
  • In Carrboro, Fray, Merrill, and Posada are picking up the majority of endorsements, from the AFL-CIO to Sunrise Durham (Carrboro) to ours (Carrboro) to civic leaders in our community (Damon Seils, The Anderson-Thorpe-Battle Breakfast Club).

And this is because these candidates are good – they have good policy ideas, they come to the table with experience, and they have demonstrated through their actions and words that they want to move our towns forward.

CHALT and their candidate slate are now telling people not to trust those endorsements. Not to trust the local media. Not to trust the award-winning Daily Tar Heel. Not to read this blog. Not to watch candidate forums.

Last Friday, Adam Searing and Renuka Soll were leaked information that they will not be endorsed by the Sierra Club. Their response, in a newsletter sent out by Searing, was to criticize the endorsement process. Apparently they also want you to not trust the Sierra Club.

So who can you trust? To us, it’s primary source material, public records, and trusted community leaders (which includes people we agree and disagree with that operate in good faith). That’s why we link to sources in our pieces, and encourage you to read other sources as well.

CHALT is wink-wink endorsing this year. We encourage you to keep your eyes wide open….

Martin Johnson, Stephen Whitlow, and Melody Kramer wrote this piece. Between them, they have six eyes wide open.

In the last municipal election cycle, we helped increase turnout by over 20 percent. We're all volunteers who care deeply about Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and we're working to make Chapel Hill and Carrboro more vibrant, accessible, fun, and sustainable.  Please consider a small donation to help us keep our digital lights on, host events, and hire students to do data deep-dives.