Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Election - House 81

Someone recently said, "nothing turns off an independent faster than negative campaigning". That's gospel.

If the campaign for House District 81 were about Republican Jill Chambers record as a reformer of MARTA, advocate of a woman's right to choose or her obstinate battle to throw cold water on the rush to create the city of Dunwoody, this bit of political writing would quickly conclude with the simple "Vote Chambers".

Unfortunately for the voters of north Dekalb, Georgia and the state of politics in general, instead the battle for the 81st is about mailers.

Jill Chambers has never shied from rough politicking. As Rusty put it, she plays with her "cleats up".

But her initial mailer implying that Democratic challenger Chris Huttman was involved in "hard core pornography" was absurd. More troubling, Chambers response to Creative Loafing was a lame non-denial denial followed by the politician's karmic band-aid of "that's politics".

In 2000, John McCain begged George Bush to stop the push polling implying McCain had fathered an interracial child. Bush responded, "That's politics, John. Senator, it's just politics."

At this point, the final line changes to "Vote Huttman".

Then they had to bring mamas into it.

Huttman has never been known to take jabs lightly. He recently responded with his own mailer accusing Chambers of trying to cover up medical lobby influence on her CON vote by telling a "sob story" about her mother's battle with cancer.

Now, much as certain writers frame their product through the perspective of life experience, legislators certainly use life experience to weight support for policy. It is true sometimes particular life experiences may result from a close relationship with cold hard cash, but if you're going to allege the graft is being obfuscated by an ill mama, you better be sure.

Now the final line shifts back to "Vote Chambers".

Rep. Chambers responded with an email decrying Huttman's use of her now deceased mother. And if she'd stopped right there, she might have been back on the side of the Lord.

Instead, Chambers went on to use the tragedy of her mother's death to attempt to justify her politics. That's not framing politics through life experience. That's playing politics with things that should remain most personal.

The only thing worse than taking a shot at an ill mama is using a dead mama as a political prop.

I also lost my mother to cancer. I rarely talk about it - even to my closest friends. I try to stay grounded in cold reality when talking politics and I understand that politicians will say damn near anything to get elected, but I just can't get my head around this one. There is no scenario where I can conceive of using the story of my mother pain for personal gain. It just ain't right.

I wish the 81st race was about the issues. Rep. Chambers has been an effective legislator. I believe Chris Huttman has the potential to be an effective legislator. They could have had a soaring debate on what really matters to the citizens of north Dekalb.

Instead we are left with choosing the one we consider the least dirty.

I really wish I could tell you to just skip past this one and if you do, you will find no criticism here. But one of them has to be elected.

The final line is "Vote Huttman".

CORRECTION: A reader pointed out my inaccuracy in the quote from 2000 and points to this article which implies McCain's outrage was directed at scurrilous accusations from a fringe veteran's group. I'm not sure it is clear which smear McCain was actually referencing but the general point of the moment remains. Any version of that's politics is not a response I ever want to hear.

Next: 8th Congressional District


Rusty said...

Was Joseph ever spot-on in the comments in that post:

She will definitely be scouring his online record for any choice quotes which can be sensationalized in a mailer.

Amber Rhea said...

She already has! Didn't you see that thing at BFD?

Unknown said...

I would have liked an opportunity to debate Jill as well but there isn't really a legitimate news presence in the district other than the Crier and they are kind of preoccupied with the whole Dunwoody thing right now (not sure Jill would go to their forum anyway).

What I do know is that since the mail heated up at the beginning of October, I've spent multiple hours at neighborhood and community candidate events, picnics etc and only crossed paths with Jill for 15 minutes.

Blogs have really helped fill in the gaps this year where the MSM has kind of checked out (no AJC endorsements in legislative races this year, for example) and maybe in future cycles bloggers will be the ones doing endorsements and scorecards and holding forums. One can only hope. It's just not a full campaign experience in mail and tv world alone.

Anonymous said...

I live in the 81st, and have written about this race three times at my blog. Mrs. Chambers has gone overboard several times. Yesterday, I got a postcard with the address and phone number of a man who filed an ethics complaint against Mrs. Chambers.
I think it would be cool to have an edgy blogger called Hardcore as a representative. Too bad this seems to be more a product of Mrs. Chambers imagination than anything else.
And yes, bloggers seem to be the only people paying attention. I don't watch TV, but that does seem to be the case.

Anonymous said...

I have personally witnessed Jill Chamber's campaign mailer tactics for the last 3 elections - and she always goes negative. Her fliers almost always focus solely on whatever dirt she can make up on her opponents and rarely actually address issues. I applaud Chris Huttman for not only holding his own, but actually addressing issues as well in his mailers. And her feigned outrage towards Chris's campaign when all of hers have been consistently negative would be humorous if it weren't so ludicrous in its hypocrisy (Glass Houses).