Just last week, I was chatting with some friends, and we were commenting on what a clean campaign it had been. For the most part, the candidates stuck to the issues during all the forums and public appearances, and appeared to have a silent code of honor that included no personal attacks.
Yep! Here we go again! The slide into Chicago-style political campaigning has begun, and it's lead by our fearless Mayor Jack Wilson.
You may recall two years ago, when Jack Wilson was running against incumbent Mayor Rowle Simmons. They each had their own website: Wilson's was (and is) http://www.electjack.com and Simmons had http://www.reelectrowle.com. But, just a couple of weeks before election day, Simmons discovered that if someone accidentally typed in http://www.electrowle.com (without the 're' in front) it took them straight to Wilson's site. Wilson had bought up several domain names having to do with Simmons and according to the Daily Courier, he tried to excuse it by stating, "I came up with a name, www.electjack.com, and Rowle copied it," and that this practice, "...is done across the industry. It's common practice."
This led to various accusations between the two of them, which didn't stop until Wilson won the 2007 election in the September primary.
This year, however, the campaign's been different. Disagreements have been based on issues and focused on council policies and actions. Appearances have been almost friendly, and the citizens of Prescott were given a rare glimpse at a campaign season where many of the candidates seemed to even like each other, and were courteous and polite despite their differences in opinion on the various issues. Sure there were rumblings that rumors were being spread, and Mayor Wilson added content about both opponents on his website, but it was pretty low-key. (Neither Kuykendall or Gooding discuss other candidates on their websites.)
All that warm and kindly camraderie amongst the mayoral candidates came to a screeching halt this weekend. After a negative column appeared in the local daily paper today about Mayoral Candidate Marlin Kuykendall, Wilson pounced on it. It was barely after midnight, (12:17 am), when Wilson sent out the first of his emails urging people to look at the article. By 10:08 am, he sent a second email telling everyone he had posted the information about the article on his own website, and added to it.
Setting aside the accuracies of both the local newspaper and Wilson's site for the moment (it will be addressed in a future article, rather than an editorial) what I find most disturbing is that people dug into Kuykendall's personal life from the last 30 or more years just trying hard to find dirt on the man. These are personal attacks against Kuykendall by the local media and by the Mayor himself, make no mistake about it.
Many items could have been discussed by the mayoral candidates – not regarding the Mayor's personal life, but regarding the Mayor's conduct in office – although both Gooding and Kuykendall chose not to during the campaign and the forums: Wilson's famous $5000 table (half of which was paid for by the City taxpayers, but they won't get to keep it if he loses); his losing battles against Open Meeting Laws; his defiance of fellow councilmembers and their votes, in which he went against them and did what he wanted to anyway; his determination to charge Prescott residents tens of thousands of dollars for mandatory sewer hookups; and of course, let's not forget the 911 call!
Despite all of this wonderful material for a campaign, all having to do with the Mayor's actions while in office, neither Kuykendall or Gooding, being the gentlemen they are, ever brought it up.
Why did Wilson make these attacks against Kuykendall? Is it because the Mayor's short tenure in office has been marred by controversy as well as disrespect to his staff, his fellow councilmembers and the general public? Is it because his support is so low, he barely had enough signatures on his campaign petitions to even be on the ballot? Is it possible the Mayor is having such a tough time raising money, that this kind of attack is all he could afford?
Of course, nobody besides Wilson knows why he does what he does. And these questions are simply speculation. But, the motivation really doesn't matter.
Because, I don't think this is going to pay off this time. I think that the citizens of Prescott have smartened up to the ways of Chicago-style politics, and they're tired of it. The citizens of Prescott like having a choice between candidates that are qualified and respectful, even when they disagree. I think that the citizens of Prescott will, for the most part, see this for what it is: a desperate attempt to salvage a campaign by a Chicago-style politician with a message that's simply not resonating this time around.
Editor's Note: I received a call with a valid point that needs to be clarified: Mayor Jack Wilson was never a politician in Chicago - what was meant that he is practicing a style of politics that would be more like that found in Chicago. I have also corrected the text to reflect that.