Countdown to May 18 Primary . . . Can we escape negative campaigning?

Days are beginning to countdown to the Pennsylvania Primary on May 18 and then on to Election Day on November 2.  As the campaign season prepares to get in to full swing, I want to publically state my strong opposition to negative campaigning.  Recalling my own experience in last year’s campaign cycle, I know all too well the personal effect of negative campaigning.

On a local level, based on past performance the potential exists for negative campaigning in the Pennsylvania State House 157 race.  The Primary has Ken Buckwalter and Warren Kampf seeking the Republican nomination; and incumbent Paul Drucker as the endorsed Democrat candidate. I have had a conversation with two of the three candidates to express my concern that this campaign season not take us down the negative path.

I think that negative campaigning can backfire in local political elections.  Poll after poll has shown that voters severely dislike negative campaigning.  Ask almost anyone and they will agree: one of the most distasteful things about political campaigns is when a candidate decides to “go negative’ on an opponent.  Often times it seems that the definition of “negative campaigning” really depends on which candidate you’re supporting. Many consultants and campaign managers like to call negative campaigning “comparing” or “contrasting” candidates by showing the voters the clear differences between their choices. If your candidate starts “comparing” himself with his opponent, then you’re more likely to look at it as completely acceptable.  If, on the other hand, the opponent does the same with your candidate, then it becomes “negative campaigning.”

In our local election, where many of us may know the candidates personally, going strongly negative and personal in the campaign can end up costing you our respect, and ultimately our vote.  Sending out a negative mailer about a candidate who everyone knows and thinks is a fairly nice guy probably isn’t going to make us change our opinion of him.  It’s much more likely to get us angry at you, instead.  I look at this way: if a candidate is severely flawed, then odds are that other people know plenty about his shortcomings. If, on the other hand, the candidate is a generally well-liked person with a clean record, then trying to convince his neighbors otherwise with a negative campaign is a losing battle.  Let’s stick to the candidate’s actual voting record and history on issues.  An opponent may claim to support a tax cut, for example, but his voting record may show a number of previous votes in favor of tax hikes . . . that would be fair game in a campaign. But personal attacks on an opponent’s private life, name-calling and mudslinging are unnecessary and not OK, and will likely not be favorably rewarded on Community Matters.

If you’re a candidate in a local election who is thinking about “going negative” on your opponent at some point during the campaign, I hope that you will reconsider.  The stuff that really wins elections is called Hard Work . . . and if you’re really putting the necessary effort into running a great campaign, you won’t have time to waste on spreading rumors about your opponent, anyway.

Here is a preview of Ken Buckwalter’s campaign mailer for the State House 157, which is going out next week.  Ken is taking the ‘high road’ with his campaign strategy, here’s hoping that the other two will follow suit.

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15 Comments

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  1. I say AMEN to Pattye’s sentiments on negative campaigning. I don’t want to see the same kind of personal attacks that were in the Paul Drucker – Guy Ciarrochi race 2 years ago!

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    Sarah Reply:

    John
    If you aren’t running any campaigns, can you please stop making every comment an opportunity to bash WK? While I know you believe Ercole is a bad publicist, it doesn’t mean him working for WK will result in negative campaigns…but even if it does, we can all evaluate those decisions.
    Did Ercole run the Ciarrochi campaign too? If he did, please just say that — because that’s fact, not supposition.

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  2. Does your admonition include such board luminaries as Mr. Petersen?

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    freddy Reply:

    JP doesn’t work for any candidate… he only works against kampf.
    because it is JP’s opinion and not the opinion of any candidate, any negative campaign rhetoric he spews is considered ok.

    i think JP is a crazed madman with a personal vendetta… he will say absolutely anything if he thinks it will hurt kampf’s chances.
    that’s just my opinion and not the opinion of any candidate.

    [Reply]

    chet Reply:

    freddy, you have articulated it well. I wonder where the venom comes from? Sounds like 5th grade bullying, although it seems Kampf has remained above the fray and has been more successful, at least in terms of being elected and time on the board..

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  3. Thank you for this post today. I hope you will post this comment as it pertains to reader comments from previous postings. In particular, I would like to address concerns of “Township Reader.”

    Township Reader expressed a concern stating “but right now as a Republican, Kampt (sic) is still the Devil I know…while Ken is the Devil I don’t know….”

    I would like to point out that all my campaign materials as well as my website, has a phone number that rings directly to me. I would be happy to address any concerns this or any other person may have either in person or via the phone.

    Next, Township Reader stated ” but I am still waiting to hear ANYTHING about Buckwalter. I’ve heard folks talk about some of his backroom dealings.”

    I am not aware of any backroom dealings that I would be accused of conducting. In fact, I ran my Council race on open and transparent government. I believe in the sunshine. I would like to also point out that on my campaign website there is a section titled “Buckwalter in the News.” Here I provide about 200 links to news articles where I am either mentioned or quoted in the news as it pertains to my Council duties.

    As a preface to the news reports, I wrote “The content of the articles as well as my quotes along with my voting record, gives you the voter, an overview as to my philosophies as an elected representative of the citizens of Phoenixville Borough.”

    Township Reader expressed concern and wrote “….and I would surely appreciate hearing relevant details, not innuendo or vague references for either candidate.”

    Visiting my website should provide that person and others as to who I am as it pertains to my 8 years as an elected representative in Phoenixville. To date, my opponent has not provided the same level of information or accessibility.

    http://www.BuckwalterForPA.com – Phone: 484-393-1411

    [Reply]

    Pattye Reply:

    Thank you for your comments Ken. And thank you for your offer to take calls directly from those voters with questions. I appreciate your openness to respond to questions/concerns that are posted on Community Matters . . . I would appeal to the other candidates to do likewise.

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  4. How refreshing to hear from a candidate. I appreciate your candor and want to assure you that I have learned my lesson about writing on this or any other public forum with questions — because they obviously sound like innuendo and that is not my intent. I have read information about both candidates and still wait to learn more as the campaign heats up. Mr. Kampf was going door to door in our region this past week and addressed several questions. I look forward to an opportunity to meet Mr. Buckwalter and will make an attempt to attend one of his scheduled appearances. . I appreciate your openness about any comments I had made that gave you pause– however inadvertent. Best of luck to you in this campaign.

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  5. From what I remember about 2008, it seemed to me that Drucker fired negative shots first and much more often.

    I believe even mr. petersen will agree that ciarrocchi had to fight back.

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  6. Pattye – to answer your question, we cannot escape negative campaigning. I received Warren Kampf’s latest advertisement today which is a negative mailer about Ken Buckwalter. Apparently Warren can’t run on his own achievements but feels the need to campaign negatively. Maybe this guy belongs in Harrisburg – just to get him out of Tredyffrin. Once again, my fellow Republicans have let me down. No wonder government can’t get fixed, competent people want nothing to do with these frauds.

    [Reply]

    Chet Reply:

    fellow republicans? I wonder… Don;’t think I would want you in a foxhole with me.

    [Reply]

    Roger Reply:

    Chet,
    I don’t need you to validate my political party – I am a Republican and a citizen of Tredyffrin. You would be lucky to have me in a foxhole with you. I’ve done more for this township than you can imagine. Inevitably, you are an individual who sits behind a computer and is most likely entrenched in the portion of the TTRC that does nothing but play politics. I’d rather spend my time improving the township than putting my party in front of progress. Get off your chair and actually do something positive.

    Thanks for coming out.

    [Reply]

    chet Reply:

    it is disappointing that someone who has done so much for the community, as you say you have, and accuses me of sitting behind a computer and is most likely entrenched in the portion of the TTRC that does nothing but play politics?

    It is amusing that if you are such a dedicated community member, that you can give a vacuous opinion about me!
    I have done my share of volunteering for the COMMUNITY over the years, and have NOTHING to do with the TTRC. But maybe I should join, play politics as well

  7. Hey — but Warren voted against sewer increases…Ken did not.

    The ads are — as always — aimed at the voter who only does what they think is right —

    I don’t see any chance of Ken prevailing — Warren has legions of supporters and I’ve already had several calls to my home on his behalf from people I know. Perhaps his insider status will be an asset, but I don’t see him beating Drucker in the fall — when it’s a local boy against a local boy (did I mention local lawyer against local lawyer???)

    Ken — you cannot run on principles in this world. You have to run on issues =-= the the only issue that matters to people in the general public is MONEY….And Kampf’s mailer is not negative — just a tad disingenuous….

    [Reply]

  8. I too am a lifelong registered Republican who is embarrassed by the actions of the Tredyffrin BOS. Not knowing Buckwalter I emailed a staunch left wing liberal Democrat resident in P’ville and asked for comments on Ken. She replied..

    “i’d like to think of ken as different. i would rather have him stay as a borough councilman than go to the state house because good borough councilmen are hard to come by.”

    This says it all as Ken sits on a BOS that is controlled by Democrats. He has my vote — and by the way – I visited his website and asked for lawn signs – He delivered them personally and was very honest and candid on all questions I posed. He has my vote…

    [Reply]

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