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On Sunday, The Blade challenged Toledo’s two candidates for mayor — Mayor Mike Bell and City Councilman D. Michael Collins — to pledge, in writing, to keep their campaigns clean and honest. On Monday, both men signed The Blade’s Clean Campaign Pledge, putting voters on notice that they will focus on the issues and not engage in mudslinging, half-truths, lies, and personal attacks.
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When negative campaigning has become almost a norm, The Blade commends both candidates for responding quickly and affirmatively. In committing to an exemplary code of conduct, the candidates have demonstrated that they have the integrity and moral fiber to compete for Toledo’s highest office. Moreover, they have set a sterling standard for all city and suburban candidates, whether they are running for city council, school board, judge, or any other office of public trust.
“My campaign will be committed to the principles of honesty, fairness, respect for my opponent, responsibility, and compassion.
“I shall emphasize my views, beliefs, and experiences. I am committed to an open and public discussion of issues, and presenting my record with sincerity and frankness. I shall not use, or agree to let outside parties use, subtle deceptions, half-truths, falsifications, or such practices as push polling. If such practices are used by outside parties without my approval, I shall repudiate them immediately and publicly.
“Factual claims made by my campaign about myself and about my opponent will be supported by publicly available, factual documents provided by my campaign office. I will disclose all contributions made to my campaign and will supply my campaign finance reports for publication via the Internet.
“I shall avoid demeaning references to my opponent and demeaning visual images of my opponent. I shall respect my opponent. I shall not use, or allow to be used, personal attacks, innuendo, or stereotyping.
“I will debate my opponent in a public, nonpartisan setting. I will insist that the organizers of such debates give equal input to my opponent concerning the arrangements.
“I shall present my record and that of my opponent accurately. I shall focus on issues relating to the office I seek and will avoid personal attacks on my opponent.
“I shall ensure that my campaign staff and campaign supporters will observe these principles of fair campaign practices. I take full responsibility for all advertising or other statements created or used on my behalf by staff and supporters.
“I shall conduct my campaign openly and publicly, discussing the issues as I see them, presenting my record and policies with intensity, sincerity, and frankness, and criticizing without fear and without malice the record and policies of my opponents and their political parties that merit such criticism.
“I will not condone or allow outside-party advertising that does not meet the principles contained in this document. If such practices are used by outside parties without my approval, I shall repudiate them immediately and publicly.
“In the conduct of my candidacy, I shall show compassion at all times for my opponent. I shall remember that the campaign process is fundamental to representative democracy, and that my behavior in the campaign affects the integrity of our society.”
The Blade, too, recognizes that it has a public responsibility. To the voters and our readers in northwest Ohio, we pledge that commentary on The Blade’s Pages of Opinion will, to the best of our ability, avoid personal attacks and remain fair, accurate, and rooted in reason. Moreover, we fully expect our readers to let us know when they think we have fallen short of that ideal.
Clean does not mean uninspiring or lackluster. On the contrary, on the key issues of taxes and spending, municipal services, public safety, labor relations, strategies for economic growth, mass transit, regionalism, race relations, and poverty the debate ought to be robust, spirited, passionate, and even heated. But heat and passion must be generated by light and reason, not scurrilous and irrelevant personal attacks.
The Blade’s Clean Campaign Pledge calls for honesty, fairness, respect, responsibility, and compassion. It demands that the candidates be transparent about campaign contributions and represent an opponent’s record honestly.
Mr. Collins called The Blade Monday morning and declared that he was ready to sign. After hearing from The Blade editorial page later that day, Mr. Bell’s campaign also said the mayor was on board.
“I’m a high-ground player, anyway,’’ Mr. Bell said Monday. “I don’t go in the mud with anybody. I look forward to debating the issues. If telling the truth can’t get it for you, I don’t need to be here.”
Mr. Collins, who was also the first primary candidate to release his financial information, said transparency was part of his “core values.”
“I will not engage — nor do I have any tolerance for those that do — in negative campaigning, or conduct opponent research for the exclusive reason of campaigning against another person’s character.”
Much is at stake at this critical time in Toledo’s history. By pledging to conduct a clean, issue-focused campaign, the two candidates for Toledo’s highest office are off to a fast, and clean, start.