The Silly Season

In the middle of serious campaigns about serious issues, sometimes we get stuff like……this.

On last week’s Red Maryland Radio we talked about candidate mailers and how they are a peek into the soul of a campaign. One of the mentions we mentioned was that of Gus Kurtz, candidate for Delegate in District 31B, who included copies of his voter registration cards on his lit piece. The rumor mill had been swirling that he had recently been a registered Democrat, so the idea that he would incldue this information on his lit piece gave creddence to the concerns about this rumor.

Well apparently there was more to it than just that, because the lit piece apparently became a full-blown kerfluffle thanks to one of his opponents, Meagan Simonaire:

In April 2012 and November 2013 – the issue dates of the cards – Kurtz was a registered Republican, according to the State Board of Elections.  

He was also a Republican from 1982 until 2002. But from 2002 to April 20, 2012, he was registered as a Democrat, according to the elections board.

In an April 19 release, one of Kurtz’s opponents, Simonaire, said the mailer had misled voters. She believed Kurtz had been a registered Democrat from 1982 until he switched to the GOP in 2012. 

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Simonaire, the 23-year-old daughter of state Sen. Bryan Simonaire, R-Pasadena, called for a public apology from Kurtz, or the resignation of his campaign manager, Erik Robey. 

“The problem is that the people were only given one piece of the puzzle: the photo, and that leads to the wrong conclusion … Bottom line: it was a very deceptive attempt to make the people think he has been a lifelong Republican.”

And to that I say “so what?” Do I have a problem that Kurtz was a registered Democrat from the last ten years before switching back to be a Democrat? Insofar that he is running as a Republican I do, sure. Do I think that Kurtz misled the voters? Not exactly. The quote attached to the piece says that “Gus is a strong conservative Republican.” Didn’t say lifelong Republican. Didn’t say he had never been a Democrat. So the piece does address one of Kurtz’s key weaknesses, but to say that it was “misleading” is a bit of a stretch.
This isn’t exactly the kind of press that Meagan Simonaire needs. From everything I can tell the main qualification that she is running on is that her father is a State Senator. For example, her campaign signs seem to be going only in locations where her father has had signs in the previous elections. Pasadena isn’t exactly the kind of area that is going to look too kindly to nepotism. Demanding an apology from Kurtz or the resignation of his campaign manager over what she perceives to be a “misleading” mailer shows to me a lack of political maturity. And by picking this fight as the first “issue” that has broken her out from the pack isn’t exactly going to help Simonaire’s cause of standing out as a serious challenger in this district.
To be fair, Kurtz hasn’t exactly come off in the best light during this “controversy” either:

On Friday Kurtz said he never responded to Simonaire’s initial call for a public apology because “she didn’t deserve a response.”

“She just put out a press release to try to defame me and she also didn’t realize I had been a Republican for 20 years prior. If I’ve been a Republican for 22 years and a Democrat for 10, what point is she trying to make?” Kurtz said. “I’ve been a Republican almost as long as she’s been alive.”

So instead of just letting it be, Kurtz instead doubles down on it and draws more attention to his status as a former Democrat and takes a shot at Simonaire’s age to boot.
What we have seen in this exchange are two candidates who really didn’t need a reason for voters not to vote for them, and both wound up giving votes exactly that. When challening two incumbent Republicans with high name ID in a field that includes eight total candidates, mistakes like that are killers. Republican primary votes are looking for candidates who are both pillars of the community and are focused on the issues that matter to improving our state and our county. Pissing contests about mailers from candidates with no established credibility with the votes is not going to do either of them any good.
As a voter in District 31B, there’s two candidates I know I won’t be casting a ballot for….

EDIT: This says it rather succinctly

@BrianGriffiths Pretty rich of a 23-year old to criticize someone for not being a “lifelong” anything.
— Ian Patrick Hines (@ianpatrickhines) April 30, 2014

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