With a seemingly new low in tactics this past election season, many of you won’t be surprised to find that there were several “worsts,” but you may be surprised to find that there were some “bests.”
One of the “bests” was the race between Skip Priest and Jim Ferrell for mayor of Federal Way. Was it a tough, hard-fought race? Absolutely. But it was a good solid race conducted by two candidates who wanted to win. Both candidates focused on the issues and stayed within bounds. I heard from people who didn’t like the “contrast” mailing Ferrell sent out. But Ferrell ran a good picture of Priest, not the smudged “wanted poster” that some candidates run. Both candidates stated what their positions were and why they wanted to be mayor. All things considered, the campaign was one of the “best” of the season and both candidates should be complimented.
Another “best” was voters who turned out in record numbers and didn’t get fooled too much by misleading rhetoric. That brings up a question: Did the public vote against retaining the sales tax on candy and soda pop because they didn’t want to pay another tax? Or did they actually believe that candy and soda pop were groceries? I tried unsuccessfully to convince my mother of that for years. For the $16 million the soda pop industry spent, you can mount a pretty persuasive argument. On the other hand, Meg Whitman spent $140 million of her own money and still lost her bid to be governor of California. So money can’t buy everything. (California voters did demonstrate their sense of humor and welcomed back “Governor Moonbeam” Jerry Brown.) The soda pop industry gets a “worst” because it was misleading.
The public may have missed at least two issues. There were three King County Charter Amendments on the ballot. All sounded very simple, suggesting an easy “yes” vote, and all three passed. However, there was more than a 30-point drop in public support from the first two to the third one. Why? Many voters figured out that the third one on collective bargaining of working conditions in the King County Sheriff’s Office will likely cost more money — and gives the union political leverage over the sheriff come election time. Secondly, remember all those candidates who were telling you that no new taxes were necessary because all the Legislature had to do was implement the state auditor’s recommendations? According to a review by the Tacoma News Tribune just prior to the election, that was a false claim. So if you voted for a candidate because of that claim, you may want to reconsider your vote next time. Misleading again — that’s another “worst.”
More of the “worst?” Dignified leadership seemed to lose its way as Republican Carl Paladino looked more like he was auditioning for a part on “The Sopranos” than running for governor of New York while swinging a baseball bat at a press conference. Of course, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Joe Manchin’s use of a rifle for target practice on the health care bill didn’t help West Virginia look like the home of high-minded statesmanship, either.
The strangest commercial I saw was by Delaware U.S. Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell, who said “I am not a witch.” While it is hardly the soaring rhetoric that inspires one to compare her oratory skills to Lincoln, Douglas or Kennedy, I am glad she cleared up that question. However, some national Republican leaders felt that extremist comments by her, as well as other Tea Party candidates who lost to moderate Democrats, may have actually cost them a chance at taking over the Senate.
Detracting from many races were outside independent expenditures by special interest groups intent on making candidates look bad with misleading information. Several national and local campaigns with good candidates, but different approaches to governing, were trying to debate issues. However, they found themselves drowned out by special interest “hit” pieces. The “worst” was Moxie Media’s tawdry role in defeating an incumbent Democratic State Senator in the primary with a shell game of misleading maneuvers that included pumping up short-term support for the Republican candidate to actually help elect another Democrat in the top two format. It worked, but the Public Disclosure Commission has referred the matter to the attorney general’s office for possible prosecution.
Was this the “worst” campaign season of all time? No, I’m afraid that is yet to come in 2012. Here’s hoping future candidates will strive to make the “best” list. But then, I also thought I could convince my mother that candy was a food.