Attack ad agitates Avon council race
But whether it achieves its stated purpose in preventing the reelection of Councilwoman Debbie Buckley or backfires and brings the candidate sympathy won’t be known until Election Day.
The targets of the ad, which appeared in Friday’s and Saturday’s Vail Daily, are Buckley and her husband, Councilman Pete Buckley. Cuny, who resigned from the Town Council in May because he had moved from Avon to Edwards, says he’s adamantly against having family members elected together because, he claims, they too often vote the same way.
Cuny also accuses the Buckleys of trying to dominate the council.
“I’m not saying anything about her job performance, that would be petty,” Cuny says. “But I still strongly think it’s an issues that husband, wives and family members should not try and control small town governments. It’s not good for the town and it’s not good for the citizens.”
The ad depicts a man and woman who look nothing like the Buckleys lying in bed together. The man is saying, “Honey, you’re not going to cancel my vote, are you?” The woman is replying, “No Dear!”
Under the bed the caption reads “Do you really want 33 percent of your votes coming from one bedroom? You currently have a married couple on your Avon Town Council voting on issues every week –Is this diversity? – Is this representation?”
The ad then exhorts people to vote “no” on Debbie Buckley.
Debbie Buckley says she not personally insulted by the ad. But she says it is offensive to women.
“The thing about the ad that strikes me is I think it’s insulting not just to me but to other women. It implies that a woman is going to vote for whatever her husband does,” Debbie Buckley says. “This is 2002; this isn’t the 1950s. Most women I know are pretty independent.”
But it was Pete Buckley with whom Cuny frequently clashed before the latter left the council. At a meeting last fall, Cuny lashed out at Pete Buckley for comments Buckley made in the Vail Daily about the council’s decision to cut Avon’s town attorney post.
In Cuny’s farewell speech in May, he didn’t mention the Buckleys by name but pledged to campaign against any couples or family members running for election this fall.
Debbie Buckley was first elected in 1998. She was joined by her husband Pete when he won a seat in 2000.
When the Town Council has not voted unanimously, the Buckleys have cancelled each other’s votes more often than not. In the 13 non-unanimous votes since Pete Buckley’s election in 2002, the Buckley voted on opposite sides seven times.
“I think Pete and my voting records speak for themselves,” Debbie Buckley says.
Most recently – on Aug. 27 – Debbie voted “yes” and Pete voted “no” when the Town Council decided to put a tax on building supplies used in Avon on the November ballot. In a similar vote at the same session, Debbie voted to approve a development in downtown Avon while Pete voted against it.
Last year, they voted differently when the council allowed a developer to annex a strip of land in east Avon that nearby residents had begged the council to leave undeveloped.
The Buckleys voted together to repeal a building deposit the town was forcing developers to pay before starting work.
“If anything,” says Pete Buckley, who faces reelection in 2004, “people more familiar with each other are more likely to argue openly with each other than people who don’t know each other and are trying to be polite.”
Indeed, the couple has argued with each other frequently during work sessions the Town Council holds before its regular meetings.
The ad was paid for by a group called Citizens For Honest Representation, which was organized by Cuny. Along with Cuny, the members include: John Perkins, an Edwards architect who has his office in Avon; Lynn Weas, general manager of the Christie Lodge; and Tom Kahler, identified as a Wildridge resident on the campaign finance form the group filed with the Avon Town Clerk’s Office.
Perkins, a longtime friend of Cuny’s, contributed $100 to the ad.
“I’ve been to enough council meetings to think that this particular situation is not the best,” he says. “I fundamentally believe that in local government – in any government, in fact – there are inherent problems with getting a husband and wife team together.”
The ad has clearly angered some in the community.
“The paid-for advertisement regarding having a married couple on the Avon (Town) Council represented the worst in political activity by petty gutter dwellers. What were they trying to say?” writes Tim Kelley in a letter to the editor.
“What should we learn from this piece? Should we ban the institution of marriage or simply disqualify all married people from running for elective office? How absurd,” Kelley writes.
Cuny, who plans to run the ad again before Election Day, says it doesn’t hurt his feelings to be called a “gutter-dweller” because he was exercising his freedom of speech.
“I’d rather see seven distinct different people in there, voting what they think is best,” Cuny says.
Debbie Buckley says she’s trying to ignore the ad.
“I thought it was kind of funny at first. I’ve gotten a lot of calls of support, which I appreciate,” she says. “There are too many other important things going on in Avon. I don’t want this to be the focus of the election.”
Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.