Last-minute mudslinging taints races
November 8, 2006
Something’s wrong when watching politics makes you want to take a shower.
After a last-minute bout of political mudslinging, some Summit County voters say they are surprised and embarrassed by how dirty the local campaigns have been this year.
The latest blowup occurred Monday as County Commissioner Bob Richer, who is vying for his second term, revealed during a debate on KPCW that he had been accused of theft and having an extramarital affair by his opponent’s political operatives.
But Richer’s Republican challenger, Woodland resident Bill Miles, insisted he’s the one who has been the target of dirty campaign tactics.
An e-mail Richer’s wife sent to several people Sunday accused Miles of being into pornography, the challenger declared.
"Bob was approached early on about his opponent being into pornography and children and the [church] knowing about it and Bob refused to use that ugly tactic," a copy of the e-mail obtained by The Park Record states. "Now ‘they’ are using it against him."
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During the debate, Richer denied knowledge of the e-mail but told Miles he would reveal where he heard the rumor to the South Summit man off the air.
Neither Richer nor Miles were available for comment Tuesday.
Summit County Commissioner Ken Woolstenhulme said Susan Richer’s e-mail about Miles "disturbed me quite a bit."
"It’s been a testy year and politics has gotten ugly. I’ve never seen it get this way," said Woolstenhulme, who ran this year unopposed for another commission term. "It’s too bad, but I think politics this year has done more to divide the county than any other time in the history of Summit County."
Voters in Kamas Tuesday agreed that several local candidates had engaged in negative campaigning.
"I have seen a couple of things I thought were unnecessary, but I guess you chalk it up to last-minute politics," said Samak resident Jack Davis after voting at Kamas City Hall.
Eleventh-hour attempts by campaigns to besmirch their opponents’ character usually backfire, he said.
A sign posted Monday near the Rail Trail in Park City asked voters to visit a Web site called howbobgetsricher.com, which attempted to tie Richer to activities like "stealing water" and "enriching himself."
And Democratic Party faithful question whether a mailer with a return address in Park City congratulating Democrats for getting out the vote was actually meant to discourage voters from going to the polls on Election Day.
"In the last minute, if somebody tried to do that, I would probably vote against them instead of for them," Davis said.
Kamas voter Myrla Snyder insists Woodland resident John Moon engaged in negative campaigning when he demanded Hoytsville resident Brody Taylor, an independent write-in candidate, abandon his attempt to unseat Republican Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds or Moon would go public with accusations that Taylor raped Moon’s daughter almost a decade ago.
"John Moon was out of line," Snyder said, after she voted Tuesday in Kamas. "It was a slap in the face."
Taylor, who has sued Moon for at least $250,000 for allegedly defaming him, wasn’t likely able to recover politically from the blow, she said.
"I like (campaigns) to be up and up and I like it to be honest," Snyder said. "I don’t like smear tactics."
Republicans in Summit County expected less negative campaigning this year, Summit County Republican Party chairwoman Diane Walker said, adding, "The county races were more negative than I had anticipated."
Basin resident Maura Hanrahan says the political attacks discouraged her.
"It makes me sad for the whole process," she said. "It seems like it would discourage good people from running in the future."
Woodland resident Mike Marty, a former Summit County Democratic Party chairman, wasn’t sure Tuesday whether last-minute smear tactics are effective.
"I don’t know if it works or not," he said, lamenting the contents of Susan Richer’s e-mail about Miles. "When you accuse somebody of something, you ought to have something to back it up To allege that [Miles] is a pedophile, that gets to be pretty serious."
Most negative campaign strategies result from desperation, said Parkite Bruce Hough, vice chairman of the Summit County GOP.