Wednesday, November 2, 2005
Miscellaneous Notes on American Fork's Campaign Season
In no particular order, here are some brief thoughts on the current campaigns in American Fork.
- So far, it has been a fairly clean campaign. I look for that to change somewhat in the next week, probably starting with Thursday's newspapers. Council candidate and retired police chief Terry Fox, who led in the primary results, is an almost certain target of last-minute attacks in the press and possibly the mail. Mayoral candidate Heber Thompson and council candidate Heidi Rodeback will more likely just continue to be the victims of whispering campaigns, which attribute to them things they have not said, do not believe, and will not do. The culprits in these cases may not be other candidates. More likely, they will be other candidates' supporters (mostly acting on their own) and, in one case, enemies who are not loyal to any particular campaign, but simply want to destroy the candidate they don't like.
- [Edited since original post; see comments below.] Some candidates are perfectly willing to tell you what other candidates believe or want to do, but their accounts tend to be distorted and self-serving. That's politics. In this year's races, at least, if you want to know what a particular candidate is thinking, you're better off asking that candidate. The candidates who have done the best job, at least in public, of sticking to themselves and the issues, rather than telling us their opponents' positions, are Thompson, Rodeback, Fox, Dale Gunther, Jimmie Cates, and Juel Belmont.
- Some candidates do a better job than others resisting the temptation to take personal offense at the fact that someone is else is running for the seat they also seek. In a healthy democratic system, a candidate should not read another candidate's running for office as betrayal. It's how the system works. Nor should other candidates' discussion of a given candidate's pet issues be interpreted as backstabbing or negative campaigning. But we have humans running, so it's no surprise that these things happen.
- I suspect that enough American Forkers are sensitive to real negative campaigning that it hurts the negative campaigner more than it helps. In fact, some folks have a completely unreasonable sense of what is negative; to turn them off, campaigning doesn't even have to be negative, by any reasonable definition. Inevitably, this widespread sensitivity also gives candidates and their supporters an incentive to accuse other candidates of negative campaigning, in order to erode the support of those other candidates. Ironically, false rumors spread by candidate A about candidate B campaigning negatively are actually negative campaigning by candidate A. The rumors might work, but they also stand a good chance of backfiring and hurting candidate A. (Sometimes life is fair.)
- [Edited since original post; see comments below.] Both mayoral candidates have recently mailed good flyers. Both were substantive and positive; Councilman Shirl LeBaron's was rather clever. Council candidate Dale Gunther's had a large picture of the American Fork Symphony where some candidates would (to my annoyance) have put the family or even extended family. Council candidate Heidi Rodeback's mailer was substantive and, as usual, beautifully designed by a gifted volunteer. I haven't seen recent mailings by the other candidates, but I expect to see at least one more.
- Long live the candidate blog. Shirl LeBaron and Heidi Rodeback, take a bow. Future candidates, take a lesson.
- I think there's a fair chance that both incumbent city council candidates will be defeated next week. But even if both incumbents win, challengers Fox and Rodeback have changed and elevated the debate in important ways -- and not just at the city council level.
- If LeBaron loses on Tuesday, I doubt it will be by the landslide we saw in the primary. The margin of victory for either mayoral candidate, I predict, will not exceed a few hundred votes. (I'm guessing; I haven't done any polling.)
Copyright 2005 by David Rodeback.
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