Here’s Mud in Your Eye

Election years can, by their very nature, be combative, ugly affairs, a rough 12-month stretch of bad road that gets more brutal and unforgiving as we near our final destination, that fateful Tuesday in November. In Fairfield County, on the other hand, campaigns are generally cordial affairs. In a largely rural community where everyone knows everyone else, is related by either blood or marriage, or shares a church pew every Sunday, that is to be expected. There’s no joy in drawing blood or leaving permanent scars on folks you’re going to have to look directly in the eye on a regular basis.

This newspaper does not endorse candidates, even those running unopposed, for exactly that reason. We’re all pretty much family here, and it is impossible – if not unfair – to choose one side over another. And while we will continue with that policy, we feel compelled, however, to comment on the extraordinary vigor being exercised by the challenging campaign for the State Senate’s District 17 seat – a campaign that may not, yet, have crossed the line into outright mudslinging, but which has certainly walked right up to it and peered lasciviously over the edge.

Candidates with an R next to their name – and without a suitcase made of cheap carpet remnants in one hand – are an historical anomaly in Fairfield County, and being the relative new kids on the political block, they have entered this election cycle fueled by the vapors of the 2010 Republican/Tea Party mini-revolution. They have established a foothold in a traditionally Democratic county and they mean to expand. They are campaigning and campaigning hard. We get that. But we take some issue with how it is being executed.

For starters, the Party Chairman insists on referring to his opposition as the “Democrat” Party.

There is no such thing. There does exist, however, something called the Democratic Party, comprising members who largely recognize this slight for what it is – a subtle piece of nasty that pushes the political discourse in this country further into incivility, and does nothing for the national conversation. Like shaking hands with your middle finger curled into the other guy’s palm, it’s the kind of insult one is able to deliver with a smile on his face.

The local GOP’s premature announcement that their District 17 Senate candidate had been endorsed by the Mayor of York can be written off as just a misunderstanding centered largely in over-exuberance. Their assertion that the incumbent has passed relatively few laws during his term as senator can be written off as selectively favorable data – not necessarily false (when one takes into account they are sampling only a single legislative session), but not true with a capital ‘T,’ either (when one realizes that sampling represents only a quarter of the incumbent’s term).

But the line between gentlemanly discourse and mudslinging frenzy was never so closely skirted than last week when the Fairfield County GOP sent out an e-mail blast suggesting that the incumbent had taken part in an unethical junket to Turkey last year. To directly quote the FCGOP:

“Why did State Senator Creighton take an all expenses paid trip to Turkey by a special interest group at a cost of over $7,000?  Who is this group, South Carolina Dialogue Foundation? Both Republicans and Democrats took this ethical questionable free trip.” [sic]

The FCGOP is kind enough to point out that members of both political parties took this trip, but instead of doing any research themselves into the South Carolina Dialogue Foundation, they leave the suggestive question hanging out there knowing few people will do the follow-up.

But we did, and we can tell you that there was absolutely nothing unethical about it. It was not funded by taxpayer dollars, it was not an attempt by a Political Action Committee to curry favor. It was, instead, one of several annual trips taken by politicians, professors, law enforcement officers and others from across the country in an effort to expand and broaden our relationship with one of America’s largest and most important allies in Central Asia.

You can do your own homework, but just don’t rely on The Nerve, a political Web site that did almost as little research into the group as the FCGOP did (and whom the FCGOP cites as a “source” in its allegations of Tomfoolery).

We expect our candidates to campaign hard. After all, we want to know they have a passion for doing the job – representing us in this big thing we call a Democracy. But let’s keep it clean. To suggest, even off-handedly, that your opponent engaged in unethical behavior – and to do so either without the benefit of, or in spite of, the facts only brings Fairfield County to a new and unwelcome low.

And let’s face it – don’t we have enough problems already?


  1. While I don’t believe it unethical for a Senator to take an all expenses paid trip, this article is ludacris. If Fairfield County ever wants to move forward, in a positive way, the citizens of the county will first, at the most basic level, need to be informed of the actions of their representatives when those representatives act in the public’s interests, for better or worse.

    This article goes from looking like it’s about politics in the county, overall, to attacking one local party, to playing the role of an angry mother of one local politician. What ever happened to objectivity? Also, attacking someone’s actions when they are acting on the part of the public is different than attacking them personally or when in regards to private affairs, and I haven’t seen any of the latter in the referenced case; so get over it, James. 

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