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Skip Tucker: Campaigns get testy at the end

Candidates are nearing the end of the tether, and it is pulled taut. Some go a little nuts at closing time, like the lonesome wolf or cougar at the bar’s last call, and consider wild stratagems and dangerous moves they will realize later were goofier than a Mickey Mouse movie.

Some are desperate. They’ve put blood, sweat, toil and tears and money into this past eighteen months, which is about how long it takes to gin up a real campaign. They are behind and risk is unavoidable.

Generally, the primary is a personality contest, with testimonials on each side proclaiming goodness. When the numbers start to gel, though, and the silver medal gleams, gloves come off and blood spills. Negative ads we knew were lurking under the bed emerge like monsters to roll in the gore.

As trashy as some of the recent negative ads have been, though, most have been relatively mild because voters still reel from a bloodletting and bloodcurdling U.S. Senate race. But negative campaigning is effective and always will be. A hopeful running against an incumbent hardly can out-nice a way to victory, unless the incumbent has done something truly heinous and/or the hopeful has more money than Mickey Mouse and McDonald’s combined.

Personally, I don’t consider an ad a negative if it is telling the truth. If one is running against an incumbent, s/he has to point out what the incumbent has done wrong, otherwise why run? The real negative ad is one in which a candidate lies about the opponent and then attacks on the strength of the lie. George Wallace was past master at that.

There’s also this: Alabama is and has been a one-party state, at least gubernatorially speaking. Alabama was Democrat until the State Democratic Party implosion in 1986 and almost solid Republican since. Still, even within a one-party system there are liberals, conservatives and the game-changing moderates.

Thus, it follows as night to day (or is it the other way ‘round) that conservatives who wanted to be elected prior to ’86, or liberals thereafter, faced the same hurdle. Conservatives ran as Democrats, sometimes of the Blue Dog variety. Liberals now run as Republicans, which is where the term RINO derives: Republican In Name Only

The political power groups also adapted their game. Left-leaning groups like the Alabama Education Association teachers’ union and the Trial Lawyers who once gave big to keep conservatives out of power now donate to Republicans who might share their interests. AEA has given as much as $600,000 to GOP candidates this cycle, according to Yellowhammer News.

The trial lawyers have also given big, especially in the Chief Justice race. Tom Parker, in indelible ink, is on record as having taken at least $400,000 from a trial lawyer PAC, and one trial lawyer put in a personal check for $250,000.

That might qualify Parker a RINO to some.

Another would-be RINO is Troy King, who is running for his old job as Attorney General. He lost it to Luther Strange eight years ago after he danced too close with the gamblers and changed directions more times than a major league spitball.

It’s the voters who get to make these calls, though. I just hope they do it with a little information.

One of the most misused and misunderstood phrases in the English language is Alexander Pope’s “a little learning is a dangerous thing.” Pope, whose acerbic wit earned him the title of “wicked wasp of Twickenham,” wanted the emphasis in his message placed on “little,” not “learning.”

In effect, he said, drink deep from the well of knowledge because a little of that heady brew intoxicates the mind. Only drinking deeply sobers us again.

So, have a drink on Pope, and cast an informed vote Tuesday, June 5. Because the run-off campaign is where things really fly afoul.

Skip Tucker was editor of the Daily Mountain Eagle in Jasper, then communications secretary for gubernatorial folks like George McMillan, Charlie Graddick and Jim Folsom. He ran Alabama Voters Against Lawsuit Abuse for in Montgomery for 15 years. He has published one novel, Pale Blue Light, a spy thriller set in The Civil War.

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