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Vail Daily column: Our trip into the muck

Don Rogers
My View
Don Rogers
Laura Mahaffy/lmahaffy@theunion.com | The Union

A strange and silly kerfuffle over a video recording of a quite ordinary candidate forum was even stranger and sillier than I imagined last week.

In the midst of perhaps the most ridiculous campaign advertising yet on the airwaves came a breathless bush league ad in the paper last week suggesting that local Republicans had something to hide by “demanding” the county not air the debate between state Senate candidates Kerry Donovan and Don Suppes.

The local Republicans protested that the Dems were committing libel of the blackest sort in this ad.

The head of the Democratic campaigns for the state Senate races claimed the Republicans threatened to sue the county if it aired the forum. He was mistaken.

The county attorney, citing a policy set in 2007, pulled the video on the forum from the county’s TV channel because third party candidates for the state Senate and state House seats were not invited to the forum. It was OK to have the forum, just not to air the debate on the county website or television station.

Naturally, the local Republicans howled anew at the operative’s mistake, and I wrote in this space last week about our own miscue in allowing one of these campaigns ads heavy on innuendo and bereft of truth to appear without running through our vetting process.

Really, that’s the only reason I’m boring you with these columns. We let ourselves get a toe in the muck. The swamp is so vast and so deep this year that we’ve resisted temptation to dive into it all if we could help it. The mud-slinging is so widespread now that this is all we’d wind up covering. Let the folks running this crap explain it. By now everyone should understand it all as the BS it is.

In this race we didn’t even get into rather wild claims in mailers and on the air that are designed to sound as if Suppes would sell the national forest in Colorado to China or wherever, or Donovan is this wild, wealthy party girl who would no doubt just vote with Front Range Dems to steal our water and take away our gun rights, blah, blah.

That ridiculous ad in our paper implying great intrigue and reason to watch a perfectly ordinary, even boring, wonky debate took me through the looking glass into an incredibly nuanced and petty little world cloaked in a thick fog of half-truths.

It turned out that the Democrats’ silly phrase in their ad, “Why did Eagle County Republicans demand the debate be destroyed?” did have somewhat of a rooting in truth. Somewhat.

The local Democratic Party chairwoman, Jane Lowery, shared an email from local GOP chairwoman Kaye Ferry that “insisted” the video in question be taken down from the county website and not be allowed to be aired anywhere.

Naturally, the Democratic leader left out all the context from Ferry’s email. Ferry was standing up for the third party candidates who were not invited to the debate. Her actual point was that since they couldn’t participate fully, the video should not be used.

At the bottom of all this junk does lie a genuine issue: How to deal with third party candidates for state and higher offices? Lee Mulcahy in Aspen is running for state Senate and Thom Haupt, of Avon, for the state House of Representatives as Libertarians.

Neither has a prayer. Sorry, just the truth there. But what obligations do we all have to them? Naturally, the two major parties would just as soon they didn’t exist to complicate their campaigns any further. The press has to make judgment calls on who to cover, and how much, and who to leave to their quixotic campaigns.

Oh, it also turns out that the head of the Democratic state Senate campaigns this year wasn’t entirely wrong when he told our reporter that the Republicans had threatened to sue to the county. He just had his timing all wrong.

The policy about airing video of the debates came from Peter Buckley, then with the local Republican Party before even they wearied of his antics. Buckley had a blue moon moment in 2007, when he quite rightly got after the county for airing then-Commissioner Peter Runyon hosting a county TV show with his own re-election looming. Threatened litigation led to the policy that covers the county airing candidate forums.

And my final laugher, after all this: An email Saturday from Donovan’s campaign manager patting himself furiously on the back about what a clean campaign the Democrats are running on her behalf. Uh, huh.

With friends like these …

Editor and Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at drogers@vaildaily.com and 970-748-2920.


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