The fact that politics is a dirty business is no secret. Overly zealous and ambitious candidates will often do and say anything to get elected/re-elected to public office. And while government can (and should) be a place of civil discourse to work together for the common betterment of its people, it can also breed corruption and destructive nastiness. In my lifetime, I’ve seen the political discourse in election time run the gamut of the good, the bad, and downright ugly. LBJ’s classic 1964 “Daisy” ad sets a gold standard for appeal to fear attack ads. It sticks to a message without name-calling. It implies that a vote for Goldwater is a vote for nuclear annihilation without stating it. The flip side of that coin is the National Security PAC’s pro-Bush/Quayle ad , the infamous 1988 “Willie Horton” ad. This ad utilizing appeal to fear, just as the Daisy ad did, was a much different and nastier beast. The guilt by association and the linking of Michael Dukakis’s name and image to that of Horton’s was bad, but unfortunately effective. Even more egregious was the ugliness of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads against John Kerry in the 2004 presidential race. These ads so willfully promoted lies and inaccuracies that the term “swiftboating” to this day means that a candidate has launched unfair and/or untrue political ads. It doesn’t take much to see that the process of getting elected has changed dramatically in the past 50 years, growing nastier and nastier–particularly with the injection of PAC/Super PAC/527 non profit group monies into the fray. And the Supreme Court’s decisions on Citizen’s United and McCutcheon have opened the floodgates of obscene ads in the past four years.
The problem with presidential campaign nastiness is that the crap rolls downhill to the local level–and it has become not just the norm, but the effective norm. Candidates wouldn’t sling the mud if it didn’t work. So this notion that all politics is local brings that national campaign nastiness straight into our mailboxes and homes breeding distrust in our communities’ elected officials. This mid-term election cycle has been no exception in the plethora of independent expenditures, PAC funds, and candidates themselves setting a new low for their ads and mailers. While I am a progressive, I happen to agree with conservative American Majority blogger Beka Romm when she points out there are ways to go negative without getting nasty. Unfortunately, the conservative running for the California Assembly in my district didn’t get the memo. The worst example of contemptible bottom feeding campaign mailers has been polluting my mailbox for weeks now. These are some of the most appalling mailers I’ve ever seen–and I’ve seen quite a lot.
What makes California Assembly candidate David Hadley’s attacks on incumbent Al Muratsuchi even worse is that he is smearing an entire profession in his attempt to take below-the-belt jabs at Assemblyman Muratsuchi. He essentially has labeled the teachers in his district pedophiles with his provocatively deceitful ads. Not to say that both candidates haven’t played tit for tat in their exchanges, but Hadley’s crude mailers attacking hard-working people in his district show him as unprincipled and unworthy for office in my book.
Take this ad for instance:
I’ve worked in the South Bay as an educator for almost two decades (and I have 24 years total experience in the classroom). In my time in the South Bay, I’ve seen one teacher go to trial for crimes of a sexual nature–and that one was acquitted by a jury. And guess what. He still lost his job. Assemblyman Muratsuchi was sitting on the school board at that time. There’s no room for doubt that Muratsuchi has a history of protecting children, in his role as a former school board member and as a Deputy Attorney General. So when Muratsuchi co-authored AB375 with principal author Assemblyman Alex Padilla, he actually worked to update and streamline the teacher discipline and dismissal process, saving school districts time and money while at the same time ensuring teachers have due process. The bill also removed outdated reference to code, while updating other sections clarifying the responsibilities of both school districts and teachers with respect to the process. One local superintendent called out Hadley’s horrific slam of the bill and Al. “Al Muratsuchi authored bills cracking down on sexual predators in the classroom, punishing administrators who cover up abuse, and has made it his mission to protect our children. He’s tough on bad teachers and a steadfast advocate for California students,” said Dr. Steven Keller, Superintendent of the Redondo Beach Unified School District (where my son happens to attend school).
Terry Ragins, a former PTA president and mother who is a long-time member and former colleague of Muratsuchi’s on the Torrance Board of Education (the district where I teach), said,”David Hadley is misleading voters about Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi’s record of protecting our children. He’s using the fear of sexual predators and the suffering of sexual assault victims to get himself elected. I served with Al on the Torrance School Board for seven years. Al has always and will continue to stand up for the best interest of our kids.”
Yet Hadley floods mailboxes with pervs peering through text books essentially labeling all of the hardworking teachers in our assembly district predators while taking a swipe at Muratsuchi, who is a former attorney in the Attorney General’s office who prosecuted cases of this nature. Hadley flat out lies about Muratsuchi’s record and uses the worst kind of scare tactics painting teachers as predators. In actuality, Al Muratsuchi wrote, passed, and got signed into law AB 449, the California Teacher Accountability Act, which cracked down on sexual predators and child abusers in our schools and the school districts who cover up the abuse. This bipartisan bill was passed unanimously by every Republican and Democrat in the State Assembly.
Muratsuchi also voted for AB 215, a bill making it easier and faster to remove and fire teachers accused of sexual or gross misconduct. It was supported by nearly every Democrat and Republican in the State Assembly. This bill was nearly unanimous, with only two members abstaining and none voting no.
As a Deputy District Attorney and a Deputy Attorney General for more than 12 years immediately prior to being elected, Muratsuchi prosecuted sexual predators, child abusers, illegal drug use, and many other cases.
So Hadley is knowingly attempting to “swiftboat” Muratsuchi at the expense of not just the assemblyman’s credibility, but at the expense of teachers’ credibility. Hadley’s most recent mailer adds even more insult to the prior injuries by further exploiting our communities’ fears of sexual predators and the damage to their victims.
Knowing victims of sexual predators in both my personal and professional life, I was mortified at receiving this image in my mailbox this past week. I had reached out to Hadley on multiple occasions in my role as a teacher advocate and local union leader in efforts to learn his educational agenda only to be rebuffed time and again. And this ad was the final low blow. Luckily my son is old enough to not be afraid of this image anymore, but the parent in me couldn’t help but feel violated pulling this image out of my mailbox in front of my child. As a teacher and single mother, I have spent my career working on behalf of children only to have this bombastic, vainglorious, rabid candidate slime my profession with graphic images that demean and degrade everything I stand for. Hadley has clearly stepped over the line of decency and has shown he has no shame. He has shown that he acknowledges no rules because he wants what he wants at any cost–even if it means smearing an entire profession of hard working advocates for children (local teachers) and cheating in order to get it (he was caught this past week laundering money through a PAC run by him into his campaign fund and forced by the California Fair Political Practices Commission to return $45,000 in donations) while lying about the record of his candidate.
I pray in my heart of hearts that this man, David Hadley, does NOT win this election. He is unfit to serve the good, hardworking people of the South Bay and AD66. Please vote to re-elect Al Muratsuchi on November 4th. Vote to allow Al to continue to work in the bipartisan spirit to solve the issues of our communities while working toward a vision that ensures future success for our children, our teachers, and our businesses (he was endorsed by police, fire fighters, teachers, and school administrator groups, as well as the California Small Business Association).
VOTE for Al Muratsuchi on November 4th!!!