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With just a few days left before the primary election, candidates have been slinging accusations, deflecting blame, overstating achievements … and spending lots and lots of money on advertising, signs, mailers, and more.
It’s hard to remember an election season like this. Five candidates vying for the Democrat gubernatorial nomination, half a dozen looking to be the Democratic nominee for Congress in the second district, and spirited campaigns for the Democratic nod for lieutenant governor and treasurer.
And that’s not considering the number of primary elections for state legislative seats.
Turn on your television and political ads stack up, one after the other, touting a candidate’s strengths and damning their opponents.
One candidate criticizes her opponents for mud-slinging while promoting her programs, and in the next ad, or is it in the same ad, criticizes her opponents for criticizing their opponents.
A former mayor, accused of mishandling some financial matters, blames department heads for the snafu; a candidate from the corporate sector, deflects questions about layoffs; a statewide candidate with oversight over functions, says someone else is responsible.
We hear how Rhode Island led the nation in the economic recovery from the pandemic, but the state is still mired in 28th place in the latest economic rankings from U.S. News and World Report.
And a pox on Channel 12 and its campaign debate rules that exclude one of the five candidates running for the Democratic nomination for governor.
I have always thought that the beauty of a political campaign is an exchange of ideas. I truly believe most politicians share similar goals but differ on how to get there. By listening to ideas, the smart winner incorporates the best of their opponents into a sound plan that addresses concerns. Even those who are least known, have less money, trail in the polls, have ideas that are worth considering.
There’s a huge burden on the voters to seek the truth about candidates, to look at their websites, to sort through what sounds plausible and what does not.
We vote often based on our instincts, our allegiances, and faith in candidates that we want to trust.
But what’s lost are some of the compelling stories. Amid all the claims and counterclaims, are some candidates with personal stories of what motivated them to run.
In Westerly, I met a legislative candidate, running in the primary, whose personal story of his young child’s physical struggles, and the need to squarely address healthcare, is a story that doesn’t get told enough. Real heart-wrenching stories about real heart-wrenching issues.
Upstate is another candidate, a refugee from Africa, who was tortured and imprisoned before coming to America, where he earned a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees and now is working hard to help immigrants. He’s a true example of the American Dream.
I don’t know how we get there, but we need to make room for all candidates to run on equal footing – a cap on campaign spending maybe, a way to equalize campaign funds, a way to make sure that all candidates have an opportunity to tell their story, and tell the voters why it is they feel compelled to run for office.