In elections, campaigns may divert from useful discussions of the issues to engage in mudslinging and innuendo. Both parties do it, but an example from the Kansas Republican Party crosses a line and may actually hurt the candidate it was intended to help.
The mail piece targets Keith Humphrey, a Democrat challenging incumbent Republican Mike Petersen for a spot in the Kansas Senate. As described in Wichita Eagle reporting, “Democratic Senate candidate Keith Humphrey … said the Kansas Republican Party should apologize for an ad it sent to voters that questions why he changed his name and raised questions about his businesses. Citing the Internet Movie Database and online public records, the ad says ‘Keith Humphrey doesn’t want you to know about his background … or that his name hasn’t always been Humphrey.’ … Humphrey said he was born as Keith Desoto and that his name changed when he was adopted at age 11.”
The mail piece also asks voters to wonder about this: “Owns four different companies, some with no websites or phone numbers.”
These issues, if we can even dignify them with that term, have nothing to do with someone’s fitness to serve in public office. Campaigning in this way causes people to turn away from politics and civic life, bringing out the worst in our political system. Democrats do this too, with notable examples targeting Michael O’Donnell in the campaign for the August primary. These, like the anti-Humphrey piece, were not sent by the candidates themselves.
Kansas Republicans — Democrats too, for that matter — would do better to stick to actual issues related to policy when campaigning. There’s much, for example, to highlight about Humphrey that relates to policy. His campaign website’s issues page reads, in part, “The tax plan passed by Sam Brownback and our incumbent state senator increases taxes on working families while slashing funding for education and increasing taxes on working class families throughout the 28th Senate District.”
Then later: “Unfortunately, cuts to public education over the last three years have gone too far.”
Actual facts don’t support these claims, as shown in Kansas Democrats wrong on school spending.
At a campaign forum in Derby, when asked about education funding and school vouchers, Humphrey cited only the base state aid per pupil figures, the same mistaken and unfactual tactics used by the education spending lobby.
Then after explaining the importance of skilled labor, he said “As far as a voucher program or something of that nature, to me it goes beyond the family right into the community, if, again if we don’t support that skilled labor base, eventually we’re going to lose one of the greatest resources we have here in south-central Kansas.” I would judge that to be non-responsive, or perhaps not understanding the topic of the question.
Finally, Humphrey was featured in a Derby Informer news story as a business owner skeptical of the Brownback tax reform’s ability to create conditions favorable for more job creation. He said that the tax reduction he expects to receive is not enough to allow him to hire another employee.
That amount is also not enough to hire, for example, a new schoolteacher, something that Humprey seems to be concerned about. The point of tax reduction is to leave more money in the productive private sector, instead of sending to an inefficient and wasteful government. As a private sector businessman, I’d think Humphrey should understand that, but evidently he doesn’t.