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Saturday, April 19, 2014
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Published: 7/1/2000 - Updated: 6 months ago

COMMENTARY

Mayoral campaign news releases we don’t want to see

BY THOMAS WALTON
BLADE COLUMNIST
Walton Walton
THE BLADE/LORI KING Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Toledo Mayor Mike Bell and City Councilman D. Michael Collins both smiled broadly for a Blade photographer when they signed a pledge to conduct their campaign for mayor with dignity and respect.

Good for them for signing, but I wish them a lot of luck. As Kermit the Frog might say, it’s not easy being clean.

Over the years, I witnessed, covered, and wrote about a lot of political campaigns. I recognized early that fairness is in the eyes of the beholder.

One candidate’s cautious and muted criticism is considered a blasphemous insult by his or her opponent. One man’s gospel truth is another man’s reprehensible lie.

There’s a hilarious scene in the 2012 movie The Campaign, in which candidate Marty Huggins invites Congressman Cam Brady to recite the Lord’s Prayer at their political debate, suspecting his opponent doesn’t know it. Sure enough, the congressman stumbles through it.

“Forgive us for trespassing,” he says, “and lead us not to the Temptations, for we are tired of them and their dancing.”

The damage to the congressman is immediate. Was his challenger being gracious or playing dirty? Seems obvious.

With four weeks to go to Election Day, let me remind Mr. Bell and Mr. Collins just how easy it is to run afoul of their good intentions — in other words, how hard it is to make nice.

Gentlemen, if you have any hope at all of honoring your noble commitment, make sure you and your campaign never send out news releases containing anything like the following:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Mayor Mike Bell today issued the following statement:

“I am a former fireman. My honorable opponent is a former cop. So who do you want putting out all those smoldering controversies that pop up in the mayor’s office all the time — a guy who’s been there and done that or a guy whose name sounds like an adult beverage?”

All right, hold on there, mayor. We’ll concede that you both probably know a thing or two about adult beverages, but this is neither the time nor place. You need to, um, raise the bar, if you’ll excuse the expression.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Collins for Mayor campaign today released the following statement:

“I applaud and salute my opponent’s former service as a fireman. It is a dangerous profession. Of course, it is also a job where you wake up to go home.”

C’mon, Councilman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Mayor Bell today issued the following statement:

“China is the new frontier for investment in America. I have explored that frontier, searching for new businesses and new jobs for our city. The closest my honorable opponent ever got to China was the Sunday buffet at the Golden Lily.”

Now, mayor, there you go again. Tout your achievements, yes, but disparaging Mr. Collins’ disinterest in travel to the Orient or his preference of a Hungarian hot dog to “which part of the chicken is that?” soup diminishes your case.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Collins for Mayor campaign today released this statement:

“My opponent rides a motorcycle. Good for him. Bikers as a group are maligned in this country — sometimes even unfairly. Picking bugs out of my teeth is not my idea of a road trip, but hey, it’s his choice and I respect it. However, I would ask my worthy friend how many Harleys are built in Toledo.”

Oops, Mr. Collins. Gotta red-flag you for that one. Sampans aren’t built in Toledo either, but you don’t see the mayor paddling down the Maumee in one.

See how difficult it is to conduct a campaign completely above reproach? Candidates are expected, as the song says, to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative, but it’s almost impossible not to mess with Mr. In-Between.

Now comes the really tough part: sticking to the script during the last 30 days before The Decision. Or as the TV news wizards call it (drum roll here), “Your Vote ’13,” or “Decision ’13,” or “Your Choice ’13.” Pick one.

So let’s see if Mr. Bell and Mr. Collins can keep it clean and fair. I honor their presumed earnestness in pursuit of good-conduct badges, but as the old joke says, once you learn to fake sincerity, you’ve got it made.

May neither man resort to the infamous “dirty-campaign pledge,” which isn’t written down anywhere but is universally understood. It goes like this:

“My opponent is a loser who’s out of touch with reality. He is not very bright. He thinks Einstein is one beer. The next time he has a good idea will be the first time. I will do anything necessary to humiliate him so soundly that his only vote will be his own, cast reluctantly.”

Thomas Walton is the retired editor and vice president of The Blade. His column appears every other Monday. His commentary, “Life As We Know It,” can be heard each Monday at 5:44 p.m. on WGTE-FM 91.

Contact him at: twalton@theblade.com



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