- The Washington Times - Monday, June 3, 2002

Assassinations, drive-by shootings, drugs in exchange for votes, and a political advertisement of a purported female candidate taking off her clothes to have illicit sex highlight unusually high levels of local gutter politics this year, say political observers.
Those were examples from Kentucky, but political contests in other states have also gotten personal and mean-spirited this primary season, observers say.
"There is no question about it, local elections have gotten nastier," said campaign consultant Cheri Jacobus. "It's cesspool politics."
The Kentucky shootings include the gunning down of Pulaski County Sheriff Sam Catron after a political event last month. Mr. Catron's opponent and two other men have been charged with the fatal sniper attack.
Paul Browning, a former Harlan County sheriff seeking to reclaim his seat, disappeared while campaigning. He was found burned beyond recognition in a vehicle March 23, with a gunshot wound to the head.
Mr. Browning, who was convicted in the 1980s of conspiracy to kill two elected officials, was reported to have been under investigation by incumbent Sheriff Steve Duff. A videotape made in February showed Mr. Browning accepting money and plotting to kill a former deputy who testified against him.
In Clay County, clerk Jennings White's vehicle was shot at during a campaign swing, while his opponent's house was fired upon in the same two-hour period.
Elsewhere, in the Georgia gubernatorial race, a 10-minute video depicts the incumbent as a "king" rat who dies at the end of the segment. A Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate has police officers calling his opponent a liar in an ad a state lawmaker calls "a lowball shot."
Former Michigan Gov. James J. Blanchard has filed theft charges against his opponent, Attorney General Jennifer M. Granholm, accusing her campaign of stealing secret financial documents. The Granholm campaign maintains the documents were found in a copy machine.
Steve Flowers, Alabama state Senate candidate, was arrested last week and charged with assaulting a 9-year old boy putting up anti-Flowers signs with his father. Both say Mr. Flowers slapped the boy in the face while holding keys; Mr. Flowers says the charge is "absurd."
Historically, local politics are a "blood sport," but advanced technology has increased distribution of stinging messages and increased awareness of the brutal campaigns, said Ron Faucheux, editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine.
In a last-ditch effort to win the office of property valuation administrator in Floyd County, Ky., Glen David May II ran a TV advertisement attacking his opponent as an adulteress.
The ad uses footage from a hidden-camera video showing a woman Mr. May said was his opponent, incumbent Connie Hancock, taking off her clothes in preparation for an adulterous sexual liaison. Mrs. Hancock denies it is her in the video.
The ad began airing May 23, but Mr. May still lost the Democratic primary Friday to Mrs. Hancock, who received 7,687 votes to Mr. May's 4,631 and the 3,021 votes of a third candidate, Jerome Greathouse. No Republicans sought the office.
"I think the politics of destruction go too far, whether it's Floyd County or other parts of the country," said Mike Duncan, treasurer for the Republican National Committee and committeeman for Kentucky.
In the ad, Mr. May is shown holding a copy of the videotape, which has not been aired in its entirety. "It's X-rated and shows just how little she values her reputation and wedding vows," he says.
Mr. May has defended the ad, saying Mrs. Hancock fired the first salvo by accusing him in another TV ad of being violent and having been arrested 56 times. None of the arrests resulted in convictions for violent offenses, and most were for traffic violations.
Tony Turner, news director of WYMT-TV, said he was concerned about the commercial's contents and checked with the Federal Communications Commission before airing the ad.
"TV stations cannot censor political ads, and because of equal access rules, once we allow a candidate in office airtime, we have to allow the opponent equal access," Mr. Turner said.
Dale Emmons, Mrs. Hancock's political consultant, said the ad "overwhelming repulsed the community."
Kentucky politics are a "free for all," said Mr. Emmons, who is also director of the American Association of Political Consultants.
"I've had my share of knock-down, drag-outs, but not this kind of personal attack," Mr. Emmons said.
Mr. Faucheux said the commercial "is probably the most extreme thing I have seen on TV involving an individual candidate at that level."
Instead of anonymous "midnight fliers" printed election eve with lurid accusations, or whisper campaigns against a person's character among polite society, direct assaults are being led on television and the Internet, Mr. Faucheux said.
The Lexington Herald-Leader said reports were coming in from throughout the state that the drug OxyContin, in addition to cash and liquor, was being exchanged for votes.
"In Kentucky these are extreme examples, but we're seeing extreme examples across the country," Mr. Faucheux said.
The Georgia video by former state Sen. Sonny Perdue, a former Democrat seeking the Republican nomination, characterizing Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes as a rat has drawn protest from Mr. Perdue's Republican rivals, reports Bill Shipp's Georgia, the state's leading political newsletter.
"Sonny Perdue needs to apologize immediately to Roy Barnes. And if he doesn't, then on behalf of all Georgians, I apologize to Roy," said Bill Byrne, Cobb County commissioner and another Republican gubernatorial candidate.
The video was sent to 2,000 supporters and can be seen on Mr. Perdue's Web site.
"It is kind of funny, but thoroughly tasteless," said Merle Black, professor of politics at Emory University.
"I can see the good ol' boys liking this, but I don't think it will play well in the suburbs of Atlanta. It's not the best way to introduce a candidate," Mr. Black said.


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