A few more days will bring the merciful end to one of the most obnoxious election seasons Colorado and Aurora have ever seen. But as the insulting and offensive TV ads continue to pile up, it’s clear it won’t be over until it’s over. And even then, the impact of this election will be felt for years.
Last week, Gov. John Hickenlooper took the brunt of two of the most outlandish televised lies to fill living rooms since election advertisements began in earnest several weeks ago.
The first ad, a product of the Bob Beauprez for governor campaign, told viewers that another Hickenlooper term could result in convicts making the state unsafe, directly accusing Hickenlooper of malfeasance in the tragic murder of Colorado Department of Corrections Chief Tom Clements. It was a shameful, sleazy attempt by Beauprez to smear his opponent in the worst possible way, and it shows a tragic lapse of character and judgment. After the widow of Clements, as well as most of the state, expressed her outrage about the ad, Beauprez revised it, but still uses it to unfairly smear his opponent.
This is a worrisome pattern that helped to cost Beauprez a shot at the governor’s office in 2006. Beauprez was soundly and justly rebuked for a series of faulty ads and data that backfired on his losing campaign against former Gov. Bill Ritter. Here we are again.
This week, the Republican Governors Association launched an ad that blatantly lies about a past Denver Post story focusing on Hickenlooper’s controversial move earlier this year to set aside the impending death penalty of convicted Aurora Chuck E. Cheeses murderer Nathan Dunlap. The ad despicably exploits an interview with one of the victim’s father. He emotionally slams Hickenlooper for his decision while the camera roles. That alone is so base and contemptible as to make viewers of any political persuasion cringe. But the ad goes further, saying that the Denver Post story stated that Hickenlooper planned on releasing Dunlap from prison. It didn’t happen. It couldn’t happen. The story said no such thing, and state officials say the governor can permanently stop Dunlap’s execution, but no governor could set Dunlap free.
Beyond tasteless, the ad is appalling and defamatory. For the sake of future elections and his own political future whether he does or doesn’t win this election, Beauprez needs to turn his campaign around and noisily demand the RGA pull the ad, until they actually do.
Hickenlooper isn’t the only victim of sleazy campaign ads flooding the Internet and airwaves. Both candidates for Aurora’s 6th Congressional District have been the victims of misleading, degrading, reckless ad campaigns that serve only to besmirch each candidate’s character and do nothing to enlighten voters. Even accurate charges are sullied by stressing them with unflattering and tawdry pictures of opponents.
No matter who wins that race, Democrat Andrew Romanoff has earned the public’s election trust by regularly pointing out that Colorado election campaigns and political life are out of control. Romanoff pledged to take no traditional PAC money during this election, and he made good on that. He’s pointed out repeatedly that relentless negative advertisements only turn off voters and make them tune out of making important decisions, and he’s largely followed his own admonitions. But in the blizzard of campaign chaos, it’s nearly impossible to find anything not tarnished over the last few weeks.
This by no means that politicians shouldn’t be fiercely called on their exaggerations, hyperbole, slanders and outright deceptions, but using lies, fear and theatrics to get the job done in a way that makes the infamous “Daisy Ad” look like a PSA has got to stop.
When the dust settles after Nov. 4, Colorado should convene elected leaders and civilian panels to find a way out of the state’s political cesspool. Colorado has become a national leader on numerous issues, this one needs to rise to the top.