Our Observation

Candidates were slinging mud by the buckets in the days leading up to the Aug. 24 primary election, but to whose benefit?

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  • | 11:38 a.m. August 26, 2010
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
  • Opinion
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Candidates were slinging mud by the buckets in the days leading up to the Aug. 24 primary election, but to whose benefit?

Newcomers were supposed to have an advantage in this election, as the masses called for a cleaning out of offices in Washington and Tallahassee.

But it didn't exactly go that way.

Some voters were so irritated by candidate attack ads and free-flowing wallets that it drove them to vote for incumbents, the "career politicians" that they had so wanted to see pack their bags.

Take the U.S. House of Representatives District 24 primary. Just days before the polls opened, former Ruth's Chris Steak House CEO Craig Miller put out a mailer that said former Winter Park Commissioner Karen Diebel was not mentally fit for office. There were other negative attacks going back and forth.

In Miller's mailer, Commissioner Beth Dillaha and former Commissioner Margie Bridges testify that, "We have personally witnessed Karen Diebel's poor attendance record, lack of preparedness, bizarre and erratic behavior and believe it makes her unfit to serve in the United States Congress."

Well, Miller's last-ditch effort to gain a better position going into the Republican primary didn't do him any good. In fact, voters went with longtime state Rep. Sandy Adams, who will go up against incumbent Suzanne Kosmas in the Nov. 2 general election, according to unofficial results.

The most public battle was that of former health care company executive Rick Scott and Attorney General Bill McCollum for the Republican nomination for governor. Scott spent about $38 million to McCollum's $13 million, mostly on attack ads.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink capitalized on the attacks, even airing a TV ad that mocks them. In it, she says, "Don't know about you, but I've had just about enough of politicians attacking each other."

Then there was Palm Beach real estate executive Jeff Greene and U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek who duked it out for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. Greene spent about $23 million and Meek about $3 million to make the other look bad.

Turns out, all of the big spenders didn't get what they paid for. Greene fell to veteran politician Meek. The one exception was Scott, who at press time, was close to clinching the Republican nomination.

Orange County wasn't immune to personal attacks among campaigns.

Maitland Mayor Doug Kinson started the fight when he brought up former Orange County Commissioner Ted Edwards' arrest for domestic violence. Edwards countered with Kinson's DUI arrest. Neither candidate was charged, but voters got to see some not-so-endearing mug shots.

Kinson started the fight but Edwards ended it — he captured the Orange County Commission District 5 seat for the third time.

So it seems like character assassination is not the way to go to win an election if you're a newbie.

Political strategists say that when the candidates differ little on policy issues, personal attacks are the only way to differentiate themselves. This time around, it backfired.

Voters wanted nothing to do with negative campaigning. They didn't want to hear what the candidate's opponent did at Spring Break in 1985, they wanted to hear what the candidate would bring to office in a time of economic turmoil.

Hopefully this next stretch of campaigning will focus on the issues. Especially now that it's clear negative doesn't sell.