Friday, April 17, 2009

Spies Cry Foul on Navarro Mailers

Nancy Navarro’s negative mailers are creating a buzz throughout Montgomery County’s political community. So we consulted the best-connected people we know – our patented spy network – to ask their opinion. And their reaction to the negative mailers was… well, negative.

“I think Navarro’s piece is ridiculous. Kramer voted for the administration bills about removing firearms in 2009 - how do you just ignore that??” ranted one informant. “That poor kid behind the fence - it's like she's saying ‘Help me! I'm locked in here with a load of Navarro’s [fecal reference deleted]!’”

Now bear in mind that everyone we asked was a neutral current or former elected office holder. None of these remarks reflect an anti-Kramer or anti-Navarro agenda. So back to the spies:

Spy #1:

I consider ads like that unfair - in that the people who are receiving them really don't know these people. The mailers, if not untrue, are very close to the line of untrue and I think it is deceiving to the voters. Besides, I don’t know a voter who enjoys receiving a negative piece of election material… Ben is being painted as a person who doesn't like children or women, which is not true.
Spy #2:

I find this side of American-style politics to be embarrassing insofar as it is far too easy to pull out any one of the hundreds of votes taken on tough issues and demagogue the issue. Irrespective of how one feels about Kramer’s politics, to suggest that a guy who self-finances all his campaigns and takes no money from PACs is somehow in the pocket of the “special interests” is ridiculous.
Spy #3:

As a person who ran a clean campaign against an incumbent, I feel as though negative campaigns are very disingenuous to the political process. It is very interesting that Navarro feels the need to bash Kramer while he just talks about himself and his values. Kudos to Kramer and shame on Navarro. I really didn’t have a favorite until now… If you want to get elected, it should be on your merits and what you bring to the table, not bashing others to make yourself look better.

And you will ALWAYS be able to poll a voting record and make it seem as though a person voted against children or for guns or whatever...that nonsense is normally done in partisan politics and not by members of the same party. Again I can’t say how disappointed I am in Nancy for stooping this low.
Spy #4:

Sure, it’s negative - typical attack ad stuff. She’s definitely not praising him - and I think she needs to do something different in order to win at this point. I figure she’s either got to prove that she has a better track record than he has (which is tough because she has no legislative record), or she’s got to convince people to fire him because he's sort of running as an incumbent. It’s a risky but necessary strategy from where she’s sitting. It’s probably the only race that she can run, although I don’t think it will work.
Spy #5 had this to say to Kramer:

If I were advising Ben, which I am not, Ben should hit her hard as smearing his record with support from a child advocate standing by his side and saying that she’ll doing anything to win! He can also talk about how he wants to focus on the issues instead of smear tactics and at the same time highlight aspects of her record. Unfortunately, he’ll have to sling a little mud now, too. However, if done carefully, he can have the benefit of characterizing her as the smear candidate, while he rises above it, but notes some of the problems with her record.
Spy #6 was the only one to offer a (partial) defense of the mailers:

Seems hard hitting, maybe even mean, but not unfair on first impression.
Our Take:

The mailers refer to Kramer’s voting record. If you can’t criticize a politician on his or her record, what can you look at? But the imagery of two of the flyers (the child behind the fence and the worried woman) overloads the information and may cause some voters to reject the mailers’ facts for their tone. The mailers are also risky. This is a very competitive race and these flyers could make the difference one way or the other. The result will only be visible on Election Day.

Bear in mind one more thing. The above comments come from politicians. This class of people loathes negative mailers because they fear being victimized by them. Some of their objections are legitimate. One politician asked me, “Suppose I vote against a bill that gives child molesters 25 years in prison, but then I vote for a bill that gives them 50 years. Does the first vote make me pro-molester?” That’s fair because context matters. That’s why we included both the good and the bad when we examined Ben Kramer’s record.

But resolving these sorts of questions is one of the basic functions of political campaigns. Office holders should expect their records to be scrutinized. They should not expect that scrutiny to occur solely on their own approved terms.