Local election season kicks into low gear

Stolen yard signs. Strongly worded fliers. Personal attacks.

The season of campaign trickery has reached its usual crescendo as candidates battle before the Nov. 4 voting day. This year, some new twists have added extra intensity to an already competitive election.

At a forum last week in Fort Mill, state House candidate Danny Stacy stunned listeners by launching into a tirade in which he called opponent Dennis Moss "a liar and a coward" for alleged hurtful comments about Stacy's family.

In Rock Hill, state House opponents John King and Marvin Rogers are feuding over the accuracy of an anti-Rogers flier that warns voters "the right-wing Republicans have recruited a black candidate from elsewhere to move into the district."

An outraged Rogers said he decided on his own to run in District 49 and had hoped the contest with King would stay focused on issues.

Sixteenth circuit solicitor hopeful Phil Jamieson, a first-time candidate, called The Herald to report stolen roadside signs. His opponent, Kevin Brackett, and coroner candidate Sabrina Gast have also dealt with stolen signs, GOP Chairman Glenn McCall said.

"I guess I thought people were decent and honorable," Jamieson said. "You hear about negative campaigning on the national level. I guess I wrongly assumed most of that was reserved for these high-stakes races. Obviously, that was a poor assumption on my part."

Politics in America

Maybe candidates shouldn't be too surprised, given the long and colorful history of political campaigning in this country.

"It's been going on since the founding of the Republic," said Michael Bitzer, a political scientist at Catawba College. "If you go back to the first election between Jefferson and Adams, it was as dirty or worse than what we're experiencing. Whenever you're getting into an election that is close in so many different races, you're going to have all the tricks pulled."

No incident drew more attention than vandalism earlier this month at the York County GOP headquarters on Oakland Avenue. Party volunteers called police after discovering the words "Republican means slavery" spraypainted on the door.

Within days, news of the vandalism found its way to the Drudge Report, a popular political Web site, as well as conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh's radio show.

The local shenanigans mirror tactics taking place at the national level -- some tied to campaigns, others not. The chairmen of both major parties in York County lamented the trickery, though both said they've seen it before.

"Not only is it not ethical, it's not smart politics," said Democratic Chairman Jim Watkins. "When you start doing these kinds of things to people, it only increases their resolve."

"It just gets into a vicious cycle," said McCall, the GOP chairman. "Once you're attacked, you have to stand up for yourself. That's where it starts. People get attracted to that. I think we all do."