When will voters have had enough of gutter politics?

This year, Florida Senate candidates Debbie Mayfield and Rick Workman, and Florida House candidate Lange Sykes have taken the fine art of gutter politics to a new low.
This year, Florida Senate candidates Debbie Mayfield and Rick Workman, and Florida House candidate Lange Sykes have taken the fine art of gutter politics to a new low.
COMMENTARY

“One way to resist this troubling trend might be to save and sort all the political post cards you receive, and then vote for the candidates whose campaigns have cut down the fewest trees.”

MARK SCHUMANN

Some political pundits and editorial writers argue that Donald J. Trump’s divisive rhetoric, and his often mean-spirited personal attacks on opponents and allies alike, is poisoning American politics. It is true Trump’s campaign seems utterly incapable of finding the high road. But it is also the case that in local and statewide elections across the country extreme negativity has been building for years.

Even in primary elections, Republicans and Democrats alike savagely attack their opponents with trumped up charges, exaggerations, mean-spirited personal assaults, and outright lies. Locally, Florida’s election laws allow dark money to flow into so-called electioneering communications organizations that are then free to blind-side one candidate without his or her opponents ever having to take responsibility for the negativity.

Last fall, for example, Citizens Alliance for Florida’s Economy, a Tampa based ECO that received money from another ECO that received money from yet another ECO that received generous contributions from Florida Power & Light, mailed post cards to Vero Beach voters attacking Amelia Graves. In what was by Florida law a non-partisan election, the Tampa based ECO essentially attacked Graves for her party affiliation.

Two years ago, without any assistance from outside hatchet men, three local politicos, Indian River Shores Vice Mayor Gerry Weick, Scott Stradley and Dan Stump, all Republicans, mailed a post card to registered Democrats attacking their fellow Republican, Jay Kramer, for his party loyalties.

In 2012, Sandra Harpring, a former staffer for Debbie Mayfield, challenged Indian River County Elections Supervisor Leslie Swan. In support of Harpring, a Brandon based ECO with loose ties to Mayfield flooded Indian River County mail boxes with one attack after another on Swan’s competence and conservative credentials. Harpring claimed to have no connection with the Brandon based ECO that was attacking Swan, but her denials were hard to believe.

This year, the gutter-dwelling political hacks from Front Line Strategies have been advising Florida House of Representatives candidate Lange Sykes. Clearly, these career political consultants have convinced young Sykes he has a bright future in politics, if only he can win this election. To Sykes, the prize, a low-paying, part time job, is apparently worth engaging in the most degrading negativity. Sykes should be ashamed of himself. The “gentlemen” at Front Line Strategies should be ashamed, and any voter who buys into their poisonous brand of politics should be equally ashamed.

Two Republican primary opponents, who apparently have nothing compelling to offer in term of their own records, have taken the fine art of gutter politics to a new low. Day after day, the mailers continue to arrive from ECOs supporting Florida Senate candidates Debbie Mayfield and Rick Workman. Absent from their message is any discussion of the merits of the candidates they support. Instead, these ECOs focus their resources on trashing the other candidate. After reading these mailers, you almost feel like you need to attend a sweat lodge to cleanse yourself of all the dark energy.

You see, Trump is not so much poisoning political discourse as he is tapping into a deep well of existing negativity. Unless and until voters organize in their resistance to gutter politics, it will continue, and slime merchants like Front Line Strategies will continue enriching themselves by marketing politician who lack conviction, vision and purpose. One way to resist this troubling trend might be to save and sort all the political post cards you receive, and then vote for the candidates whose campaigns have cut down the fewest trees.

4 comments

  1. Wow Mark, right on! One small thing, you left out Dr. MacKay as the perfect choice for State Representative. He has the one quality the other candidates do not have, HONESTY! If we have to make a difference, his election would be our statement!
    On another issue, Jennifer Kramer had the tenacity to speak out for her father, I as a Shores resident agree with her, and will support Jay’s ethics to the hilt! I have known Jay for many years and I wish that he was on our city council and not Vero’s.

  2. If any of the candidates do manage to get into office, there’s one thing they should know. We’ll be watching them very, very closely. As for Dr. MacKay and Mr. Kramer, they are both A-1 in my book. We really do need a doctor in the house……and the Co. Commission could use new blood. Not forgetting how Mr. Solari was for the Oslo boat ramp widening, then the outcry against it helped him and fellow Commission members to change their minds. BUT, we found out the permits to make those changes were still in the works. If they were against the project, then why was this process continued? Probably because they figured in a few years they’d catch us not looking and go ahead anyway. But yes, we definitely believe in saving our trees, our lagoon, and our way of life.

  3. If I am correct Bob Solari was also for All Aboard Florida, along with Tim Zorc, before he was against it. The reason why anyone would be in favor of AAF is a mystery to many of us.

  4. Win or lose tomorrow, Lange Sykes has shown disregard for common decency with his “below the belt ” campaign. His poisonous style will leave a stain on his character and reputation for many years to come.

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