What Could be Positive About Negative?
weeks ago, my opponent and I started sending campaign mailings to voters. The tradition in a campaign is to define
yourself and your record first, then show distinctions between you and the
other candidate(s), and then, in the closing days, urge your supporters to
I have been
knocking on doors for over 14 months. In
that time, I have rarely been asked about my 32-year incumbent opponent. When her name was broached, however, it was
generally to ask about our differences. The
job for a challenger is to answer the question: why should we fire the
incumbent and hire you? Despite this, it has been my practice
throughout this campaign not to criticize Jennie Forehand personally or in any
way to demean her lifetime commitment to public service. It is, acceptable, however, to draw
distinctions in votes cast… or not cast.
It is a
fact that she was the only State Senator who missed the key vote on the death
penalty. It is a fact that Jennie’s vote enacted the
tax on computer services. It is a fact
that she opposed common sense lead paint tests and took contributions from real
estate interests. Nowhere do we say or
imply that she missed all the votes on the death penalty, wanted to put
computer companies out of business, or is indifferent to children’s
health. Facts are facts though, and she
needs to defend her record on these three recent issues.
This is the
kind of “negative” campaigning that can have positive effects: it informs the
voters on important issues that an incumbent candidate would just as soon keep
quiet, and that the media-- especially on the local level-- often lacks the
resources to pursue. Since it draws
legitimate contrasts between the candidates, it is more accurately referred to
as comparative advertising.
other hand, Jennie and her powerful Annapolis supporters have dug up old news
and smeared it onto some pretty ugly mailers.
She knew that I had a personal relationship in the mid-90’s with a guy
who happened to be a lobbyist. She knew
that we were the only couple (of three) that chose to disclose all of our
personal expenditures, including movie tickets and meals. It was only due to that relationship that I
earned the dubious distinction of being the top “gift” (meals are considered
‘gifts‘under Maryland law) recipient in the legislature. The media and others who knew the
circumstances all gave us kudos for our ultra-ethical behavior. Unfortunately, Jennie chose to use it against
me for her political gain.
can be said for the tobacco tax. I voted
FOR an 83% tobacco tax increase. I was a
co-sponsor of a proposed 139% increase.
But when it came to the 278% increase referred to in Jennie’s negative
mailer-- a jump in taxes that would have put us completely out-of-step with
neighboring jurisdictions like DC and VA-- I voted no. There was no lobbyist influence, no tobacco
campaign contributions (ever!), no special interest persuasion involved. It was me, trying to cast the most careful
and well-informed votes I could. In my
eight years in office, it was probably the toughest decision I made.
like negative campaigning. Anything that
is a personal smear, unsupported by the facts or filled with innuendo should
have no place in our political world.
The reality is that it exists; any candidate not prepared to get beaten
up a bit should stay out of politics.
But, like a lot of people, I think it diminishes the process.
links and more on a new page we felt compelled to create. Please visit www.CherylKagan.org/facts
to learn about our mailers and those sent by our opponent.
would love to hear from you, dear
Blog reader! What’s your opinion on
negative campaigning? Do you see the
difference between issue-based differences and personal or character
attacks? Please send an email to Blog@CherylKagan.org or click on the "Comments"
link below to express your views. Please
be sure to indicate which post (#77) you're addressing.
Thanks for reading. I will post again soon.