What are the lessons after the ugliest Primary campaign in my memory? Who won? Did the lies and deception win out, or did the electorate stand up to those horrible tactics and turn back the liars? Let’s take a look and see.
In the governor’s race it was a presidential tweet and a come from behind to be the frontrunner race that makes Ron DeSantis the Republican nominee. Adam Putnam’s campaign had lied long and hard about the DeSantis record, but that was easily seen through by the voters.
It was the same in the Republican Attorney General race as Ashley Moody overcame lies by opponent Frank White. White’s misstatements clearly showed he did not understand the role of a federal prosecutor and highlighted his own lack of courtroom experience.
In the House D-51 race Tyler Sirois easily defeated Cocoa Mayor Henry Parrish who had problems finding the truth from the very beginning and then ran into tax problems in his business and personal life. He was also dumb enough to pick a fight with Guy Spearman, Brevard’s most powerful lobbyist. The truth also won here. Character matters.
The District 4 County Commission race was the ugliest of all as Team Infantini played fast and loose with the truth and the candidate embraced the lies about incumbent Curt Smith. The deceptive campaign was led by a cabal of Infantini supporters that included Commissioner John Tobia whose scorn for Smith has been evident from the beginning of Tobia’s term and Representative Randy Fine who leveraged his Political Action Committee to personally attack Smith with snippets of Smith’s record with loads of deception and innuendo. Fine also orchestrated a vicious Facebook campaign where truth was fleeting at best and hatred was clear. Representative Jason Brodeur of Seminole County allowed his PAC to be the avenue of mailers that outright lied about Smith. That PAC had thousands infused into the campaign by another PAC controlled by Mike Haridopolos, the father of leadership Funds that serve to allow such deceptive, cowardly tactics.
While Smith’s campaign was also PAC assisted, their negative mailers focused on Infantini’s record as a commissioner when she served in a district where she actually resided. Smith also had grassroots and PAC help that seems to be out of touch with the politics of the district with one supporter striking out individually to bring up an Infantini personal, family issue that had been addressed when she was serving on the commission. Several mailers addressed issues not in direct control of the commission. Some of these acts were out of the candidate’s control; others should have been addressed with supporters before they decided to play when their acts could have harmed their preferred candidate.
While the Smith win was a close one, around a 5% margin, the others were basically runaways. Is there a lesson here? I hope so.
In each of the runaway races and in the close D-4 commission race, voters turned back lies and flat out nasty campaign tactics to nominate the candidate whose campaign stuck primarily to the facts and issues of the race and the opponent’s actual record. Personal attacks and lies were called out and shunned by the electorate. That is a positive sign and a lesson to those less than honest players who wanted to make the campaigns about their own spin and aspirations for the offices in question.
Are these defeats enough to stop the lies and deceit? I doubt it. The egos of the self-perceived power brokers just won’t allow for that. They see themselves as the arbiters of what should be and will use their money, power and influence to keep at it. That means just one thing.
We voters will have to remain vigilant in our observation, research and understanding of campaigns and their tactics in order to weed out the chaff and find the best person for the job. Sadly, it’s not likely the players will do anything to make our jobs easier.