Gumballs disappeared rapidly in nasty campaign season

When we at The Daily Sentinel initiated our gumball grading system early in September, we had only one preconceived notion: Candidates of both parties and the independent groups that support them would engage in petty political attacks that do nothing to further informed political debate and have little to do with the issues Coloradans face.

It was also a means for this newspaper to restate our belief that integrity matters, more than ideology, in politicians we want to represent us. That’s why we urged Scott McInnis to get out of the gubernatorial race following the revelations of plagiarism and his handling of the issue. Integrity issues also played a key part in our candidate endorsements.

We doubt if there is anyone who has spent much time watching television or listening to the radio the past two months who would disagree that misleading attack ads have dominated. The sentiment expressed most often is weariness — a desire for it all to come to end.

It will, of course, after the votes are counted Tuesday. In the meantime, here’s the final accounting in our gumball grading system. The more gumballs a candidate has lost, the worse his campaign ads or campaign statements have been. What started as a full gumball machine with a smiley face may end up with an empty machine with a frown.

✓ By far the most money and greatest number of ads have come in the campaign for the U.S. Senate between Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and Republican Ken Buck. Their own advertisements, and ads run on behalf of both men by independent groups, have constantly pummeled the electorate with dubious claims about the other side: That Bennet voted to “gut” Medicare or that Buck wants to raise taxes by 23 percent.

Although the candidates cannot legally dictate what independent groups say in advertisements on their behalf, Bennet and Buck set the tone for this campaign early on with attack ads against their opponents which they did approve. Both men lose two levels of gumballs in their machines.

✓ In the 3rd Congressional District race, Republican Scott Tipton dropped one level early on for his “Let’s roll!” comment made during the Club 20 debate in Grand Junction. Democrat John Salazar also lost one during that debate for using the same inaccurate claim about Tipton favoring a 23 percent tax hike that Democrats used against Buck. But Salazar followed that up a few weeks later with an ad he approved, making patently misleading claims about Tipton being a banker and personally benefitting from the bank bailout legislation. As a result, Salazar nearly emptied his gumball machine.

✓ Democrat Claudette Konola, running against Republican Steve King, lost one level of gumballs early in the campaign when she referred to King as “a peacock.”

In the campaign for Colorado governor, Democrat John Hickenlooper has had the advantage of starting out with a large lead in the polls. He was therefore able to maintain his campaign pledge to avoid negative campaigning.

✓ Third-party gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo lost one level of gumballs early on in an attack ad against Republican Dan Maes, which failed to mention that the elderly woman who claimed to have been “conned” by Maes has been a tough-as-nails political activist in Colorado for many decades.

✓ But it was Maes, the GOP nominee for governor, who lost the most gumballs in our grading system. First, he claimed that 25-year-old records that showed he was fired from the Liberal, Kans., police department vindicated his claim that he had worked undercover for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. That was followed, a few weeks later, by the revelation that Maes filed for personal bankruptcy 20 years ago. There’s nothing egregious about that by itself. It was the fact that Maes failed to disclose it to GOP leaders when he entered the race and they asked him whether there was anything in his past likely to cause problems. Furthermore, he asked voters to support him based on his business and financial acumen. To top it off, when Tancredo suggested Maes get out of the race, Maes called Tancredo a “thug.”

Maes has lost all of his gumballs.


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