A blog dealing with Sarasota County and the City of Sarasota.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Carolyn Mason: Dishonest? Irresponsible? Disrespectful? You Decide.

Like me, County Commission candidate Carolyn Mason was deemed to "exceed qualifications" by the Sarasota County Civic League and, like me, she signed a League pledge to avoid negative advertisements, a term that has actually been defined by the Civic League (see below). I turned the other cheek when Carolyn sent her first mailer that was dishonest, in part because I believe she mailed it before signing the pledge. But now, after signing the pledge, she is running a TV spot that is simultaneously dishonest*, irresponsible*, and disrespectful* and has sent out another mailer laden with dishonest distortions and half truths.  

If you've seen the TV spot you know it makes three assertions about me. I have neither a script nor a transcript, but if someone will produce a copy of the ad, I will gladly debate the veracity of each statement. My contention is Carolyn's claims are lies, distortions or half-truths, or, as the League would say: dishonest.

This is where it would help to have objective civic body to investigate the veracity of such claims. But the Civic League is apparently unwilling to enforce or adjudicate the the terms of pledge, and no other civic organization seems to want to step up. So it is left to people like myself to question behavior like this: What kind of person signs a pledge and then violates it?

But this is not merely an ad consisting of what I take to be dishonest assertions.  It features a corpulent man in a tutu dancing below my name. It is not clear if the man is meant to represent me or not, but putting someone's name on the screen along with an image of a person is a traditional technique for identifying someone.

At the risk of losing the corpulent, cross-dressing danseur vote, I get the sense that I am not being treated as a worthy citizen and individual -- meeting the League's definition of disrespectful. And I think it is pretty clear the ad degrades the tenor of public discourse and heightens cynicism about the electoral process. That, according to the League, makes it irresponsible.

I have already blogged about the "politics of desperation" but this is a new low.

I've worked for three decades to establish my reputation here in Sarasota County. Now a woman I assumed to be honorable is deliberately misrepresenting my views and actions for crass political advantage. That behavior that is hard for me to respect.

My moral compass prevents me from responding in kind. My final week TV ads are all positive and don't mention my opponents. I didn't even contemplate scripting or shoot any attack ads. Of my five mailers, only a portion of one could be considered negative and that contains independently-verifiable statements based on my opponents record as an elected official, which virtually everyone has told me is fair game. 

If one has to be dishonest, irresponsible and disrespectful to win an election around here then I fear for our community and society. 


The following definitions are used by the Civic League to characterize various forms of political advertising.

*dishonest if they base their messages on lies or subtle deceptions and half truths

*irresponsible if they degrade the tenor of public discourse and heighten cynicism about the electoral process

*disrespectful if they refuse to treat the opposing candidate as a worthy citizen and individual

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