What’s fair play in an election campaign?
The efforts of purported online hackers to “expose” a Ward 3 candidate as a Freemason just jumped to the top of a list of questionable campaign tactics in Hamilton.
It’s getting to be a long list.
Alleged mass destruction of Marie Robbins signs in Stoney Creek. An anonymous letter disputing how long Sandy Shaw has lived in Ward 1. A suspected “whisper campaign” about the health of mayoral candidate Brad Clark.
Clark, in turn, was accused of mudslinging after claiming candidate Fred Eisenberger misled the public by withholding rapid transit memos when he was last mayor. Clark then faced criticism when it was revealed he got the memos from outgoing Mayor Bob Bratina, not via a Freedom of Information request, as suggested by his campaign.
The difference between hardball tactics and dirty politics is often in the eye of the beholder, said political pundit Gerry Nicholls, known for creative attack ads during his time with the conservative National Citizens Coalition.
“Attack ads, brawling tactics … it’s kind of par for the course in elections,” said Nicholls, who fondly recalls skewering federal politicians using “farm animals and billboards.”
“Politics really is a blood sport. If you’re not ready for the rough stuff, maybe you’re not ready to run for office.”
Still, Nicholls said every candidate has to respect basic rules, such as libel law. “You don’t call someone a liar … You may hint at it, you may imply it,” he said. Also, do your research. A factually incorrect attack ad “can really come back and bite you.”
Clark rejects the characterization of his campaign as negative. He argued Thursday the vast majority of his announcements have been positive and added it’s fair to criticize the track record of opponents.
“There’s a difference between comparing performance and quite literally name calling,” said Clark in response to a Spectator question at a news conference on improving council relations.
The Stoney Creek councillor has indeed endured some notable barbs from mayoral competitors like Brian McHattie, who has called him “Machiavellian.”
Clark also recently held a news conference to address what he felt was a “whisper campaign” about his rheumatoid arthritis, which he said is in remission and has never interfered with his duties as councillor.
Shaw was irritated to learn about the anonymous pokes at her residency. The rookie candidate said she briefly lived outside the ward for family reasons but is back and has had a home in Ward 1 for 32 years. She describing the letter in field hockey terms: “like a crack at your ankles on a breakaway.”
Ward 3 candidate Matthew Green is the latest victim — or, possibly, beneficiary — of a political attack. A YouTube video ostensibly posted by the online collective of hackers Anonymous warns viewers the rookie candidate is a Freemason who moved his business to Ward 3 to “control” the neighbourhood.
Some online comments noted the video does a good job reminding viewers of Green’s activism and media plaudits for being a “young professional to watch.”
Green said he appreciates the shoutout, if not the “poor production values” and “tinfoil hat stuff.” He declined to say who he thinks is behind the video — but added it isn’t him.
“I don’t know, this election seems to have really brought out the kookiness in some people,” said the candidate, who described himself being “two-for-two” in unwanted election news after being accused of defamation following a heated exchange with a school board trustee.
“Maybe you haven’t arrived until someone makes an Anonymous video about you?” (Source: Hamilton Spectator)