A few weeks out, by many measures, my campaign seemed to be ahead -- whether measured by number of donors, newspaper endorsements, contributions, bi-partisan support, county and regional knowledge, internet presence, forum performance, years of community service, etc. But while the local press obsessed on how much money had come into my campaign in modest amounts of $200 and less, it now appears Republican partisans were quietly assembling a war chest of big donations to defeat me, an amount that may have totaled over $100,000. If confirmed, this means that despite my record-breaking fundraising effort, Carolyn's team actually outspent me.
I'm told the money was not routed through Carolyn Mason's campaign account, but took a more circuitous route that allows the supporters of three candidates to pool advertising resources outside their respective campaign accounts. It is believed that most, if not all, of the money was diverted to support Carolyn Mason, and not the other two members, Marie Nisco and Donna Clarke. The result was a surge of television and radio ads that continually bathed the electorate during the last couple of weeks of the campaign. The ads ran from positive personal narratives to negative attack ads that, according to definitions provided by the Civic League of Sarasota, appear to be dishonest, irresponsible and disrespectful. This is the twin-pronged strategy that drove up both Carolyn's positives and my negatives. Outspent by five or six to one on media, I faced an onslaught that running a clean campaign based on direct mail, signage and personal appearances could not surmount. So I lost.
As far as I can tell, this is the first time a candidate employing negative attack ads has been elected to the Sarasota County Commission. In my opinion, the successful intrusion at the county level of dirty attack-style ads we usually associate with state and national level contests does not bode well for our community.
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