Published on November 2, 2012, Pawtucket Times
With the 1st Congressional seat up for grabs, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and the Democratic Congressional Committee (DCCC) have the OceanState on their radar screen, hoping to sway voters to their chosen candidates. Political funds coming from these “Inside the Beltway” political groups come because of the tightness of the race and these committees are picking up the tabs for large blocks of local television advertising to mount concentrated negative ad campaigns. According to WPRI 12, NRCC is buying $280,000 in advertising compared to the DCCC’s $315,000.
t’s a Close Call
According to an exclusive WPRI 12 poll, this television station reported last Tuesday that David Cicilline, the incumbent Democratic Congressman has a “razor thin” lead of only 1-point between him (43%) and his independent Republican Challenger, Brendan Doherty, (42%) just one week before next Tuesday’s election. The pollsters say that independent Candidate David Vogel’s 6% following with 8% undecided make this election race just too close to call. This poll was based on interviews with 300 registered voters in the First Congressional District.
With polls showing the race becoming a dead heat, both Democrats and Republicans are taking their gloves off.
Freshman Congressman Cicilline’s 30-second ad seeks to firmly tie the GOP Congressional Candidate, Doherty to the House Republican leadership, who want to privatize Social Security, derail ObamaCare, and repackage Medicare.
Cicilline campaign ads have questioned his Republican challenger’s ability to represent his constituency in a Republican-controlled House, captured by a radical Tea Party who philosophically opposes political compromise. Doherty has vehemently denied this, calling himself a “centralist,” “independent thinker,” one who can work with those across the aisle.
Meanwhile, according to the Providence Journal, the House Majority Political Action Committee, a Democratic “super Pac,” plans to spend $75,000 on direct-mail flyers to oppose GOP’s Doherty’s efforts to go to Congress. This follows on the heels of the Rhode Island GOP’s mailing of negative campaign materials attacking the Cicilline’s integrity, his work as a criminal defense attorney and his statements about the ffiscal health of his City as he left office.
An October 30, 2012 posting of “On Politics with Ian Donnis and Scott MacKay,” gives their political junkie readers insight into Doherty’s move to play “good cop, bad cop” in his advertising playbook. Not so surprising with his law enforcement background in the waning days of his first political campaign.
A Tale of Two 30-Second Ads
Highly-regarded Investigative writers Donnis and MacKay reveal that while on the same day that the NRCC savagely attacked Cicilline in a 30-second spot titled “Set Free,” for being a criminal defense attorney who “represented child predators, murders, and violent attackers”, while Doherty ran his own political ad, paid for by his Doherty for Congress, opposing Washington attack ads and mudslinging.
Donnis and MacKay, whose Commentaries are reported on the Rhode Island Public Radio, also noted in their blog that the Providence Journal’s PolitiFact found that Cicilline, who served in the Rhode Island General Assembly for four terms, supported a crime bill as a state representative “contrary to the message being offered in part by the NRCC.”
In Doherty’s 30-second spot, “What is Right,” the GOP Challenger says, “Washington has gotten so bad they will say just about anything whether it is true or not.” Doherty’s wife, Michelle responds: “People are so tired of that,” adding “We can’t begin to solve our problems until we get rid of that kind of stuff.”
Doherty, the former Colonel of the Rhode Island State Police who is running in his first political race, replied: “I agree. She is always right.” He goes on to pledge to create jobs, lower the national debt and to support the Social Security and Medicare programs.
Why approve a message that Rhode Island voters are tired of being misinformed by those in Washington when you don’t stand up and tell the NRCC to shelf their negative ad campaign?
Scott Davis, who lives on the East Side of Providence and is a neighbor of Cicilline, disagrees with the NRCC’s attempt to savagely attack the Democratic Congressman for choosing to defend criminals in his law practice, over a decade ago.
Davis states, “My understanding is that Cicilline focused primarily on immigration law. In any event, to pass judgment on him for defending criminals is to question the foundation of our judicial system as mandated in our constitution,” he said.
According to Davis, “Defending criminals protects the rights of the wrongfully accused and only the best lawyers have the fortitude to make the moral separation necessary to ensure justice.”
“What I find far more troubling is with the NRCC attacking the Congressman because of his clients with Doherty’s apparent blessings,” says the owner of Rhode Island Antiques Mall. “The former law officer demonstrates that apparently he either doesn’t understand or agree with the basic elements of a democracy, yet he’s asking us to allow him to represent us in the running of ours.”
Of course, occasionally we’ve read about an innocent person who spends years in jail only to later be released because of new evidence. When this it oftentimes makes headlines in local or national publications. Or perhaps investigative shows like CBS’s 60 Minutes or Dateline NBC, might detail particular cases.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, since 1973, 141 people in 26 states were released from death row with evidence of their innocence. I wonder how many of these “innocent” individuals were profiled in a negative 30-second spot to attack a political candidate.
As the WPRI 12 poll reflects in the 1st Congressional District, most of the voters have already aligned themselves to either Cicilline or Doherty with Vogel being the potential spoiler. The election will go to the candidate who can bring home the uncommitted independent voter in the remaining final days of the campaign.
Taking the Power Back from Political Candidates
Historically, nationwide aging baby boomers and seniors have played a major role in electing political candidates, for they have consistently voted in larger percentages than other age groups. This year the political fate of Cicilline and Doherty may well rest on these voters.
By now, political candidates have mailed campaign literature to the voters of the 1st Congressional District hoping to bring home their final political message to influence their votes. Combine this with the mudslinging and negative campaigning, the political advisors of both candidates will now look to see if the polls move.
For older voters it’s now more important than ever to read between the lines in the campaign literature you receive or the television ads that you watch. An educated voter who strives to understand the multitude of domestic and foreign issues that must be addressed by the next Congress will make his or her own decision as to whom they support, rather than be influenced by negative 30-second ads or campaign materials paid for by Washington, DC-based political groups.
It’s time for aging baby boomers and seniors to rise above negative campaigning and political innuendos being slung by the political candidates, by turning away from calculated misinformation they want to feed you. Base your vote at your polling site on the facts, yes, just the plain facts.
Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.