In the contest for the Republican Party nomination for United States Congress from the fourth district of Kansas, Wichita businessman Wink Hartman has run many advertisements making an issue of a clean campaign pledge. He’s signed it, and says that leading rival Mike Pompeo won’t sign it.
I asked Rodger Woods, manager of the Pompeo campaign, why his candidate didn’t sign the pledge. Woods mentioned two reasons.
First, Woods said that the meaning of the word “clean” is subjective. He said that Pompeo has committed to running a truthful campaign, the meaning of which is not subjective, noting that “truth” and “factual” do not appear in the Hartman pledge.
Second, Woods said that the purpose of primary elections is the find the best candidate. The tone of Hartman’s pledge, he said, is that Republicans are best served by not bringing up certain sets of issues.
Woods said that Pompeo has been committed from the start to being truthful, and he is satisfied that the campaign is fulfilling that commitment. A recent Pompeo press release stated “To date, no Mike Pompeo ad has mentioned any opponent. All Pompeo advertising has been built around Mike Pompeo’s positive record and the issues facing voters.” By my observation, this appears to be true.
Woods didn’t say this, but sometimes these clean campaign pledges are used to neutralize or deflect negative information that is about to be revealed. In this case, Hartman promoted his pledge shortly before issues of his controversial Florida residency and Florida voting were made public. (Hartman’s Florida voting was first reported in my story Hartman, candidate for Congress from Kansas, recently voted in Florida.) If a rival candidate were to mention inconvenient facts, it allows the other campaign to make allegations of dirty campaigning.
Facts, even unpleasant, need to be aired during primary election campaigns, I believe. Better for both parties to deal with them then rather than during the general election contest.
While Pompeo did not sign the pledge, that shouldn’t stop Hartman from living up to its standards, if he chooses to. But recently Hartman started running a television advertisement that lives up to all the worst expectations of negative campaigning.
It uses — as is standard practice in negative attack ads — unflattering images of the opponent. After quoting a leftist Kansas blog when it declared “Pompeo has thrown the first ugly punch,” the announcer states “No big surprise. Pompeo worked in Washington DC as a lawyer before moving to Kansas.”
The fact is that Pompeo worked in Washington for three years after graduating from law school. While Hartman’s ad is factually correct, this is the type of attempt at a backhanded compliment that most people would agree violates a plank of Hartman’s clean campaign pledge: “2. Treat Republican opponents with respect by focusing campaign advertisements on our own campaign’s vision for Kansas; this includes not mentioning fellow Republicans negatively in television or radio commercials.”
Hartman’s ad continues with the announcer stating “And the Pompeo record on jobs? He took Kansas jobs to Mexico. That’s right: took Kansas jobs to Mexico.”
Pompeo has stated that when the company he managed, Thayer Aerospace, opened a facility in Mexico, the Mexican plant was a condition of a contract with a customer. The Mexico jobs were new jobs, not jobs previously held by Kansans that were transferred to Mexico.
The ad concludes with “Mike Pompeo: just another Washington insider we can’t trust.” While there is no specific definition of “Washington insider,” at least one of Pompeo’s policy positions and his past action is in direct opposition to what “insiders” want: term limits.
In a speech to the Wichita Pachyderm Club last November, Pompeo told of his efforts, working pro bono, in favor of an effort in Arkansas of that state placing its federal office holders under term limits. I also reported “On term limits, Pompeo said he would like to see a constitutional amendment for term limits, but he would not make a personal pledge to limit his own service.”
Along with most of the other candidates in this contest — including Hartman — Pompeo opposes earmarks, another favorite Washington “insider” perk.
Hartman’s ad, besides going against the spirit and letter of his clean campaign pledge, also starts to drag the fourth district campaign down into the type of negative campaign that voters say they dislike. The other candidates besides Hartman and Pompeo in the race have not raised enough campaign funds to do any television or other widespread advertising.
The candidates and their campaign websites are Wichita businessman Jim Anderson, Wichita businessman Wink Hartman, Wichita businessman Mike Pompeo, Latham engineer Paij Rutschman, and Kansas Senator Jean Schodorf.