Sharpe: Thank You For Speaking Out Against Attack Ads
From time to time I am reminded of the old saying that "a lie can travel half way around the world before the truth gets its boots on", and it rings particularly true during campaign season.
Sadly, it has become all too common to see wild accusations (and flat out lies) serve as the basis for political campaign advertising at the state and national levels, but the "scorched earth" strategy is less common in local politics.
Perhaps this is because the likelihood you will actually see the person (at the grocery store, at church, or at a football game) is much, much higher.
I like to think it's because, at the local level, we have to work together to solve common problems and look out for our neighbors (regardless of their party affiliation). No matter the reason, it is rare and typically only deployed by the most extreme ideological candidates—ones with a tenuous grip on reality.
Unfortunately, this week brought a flurry of nasty, negative, and defamatory attack ads that spread across our community like kudzu. The attacks came in the form of large, glossy mailers and Facebook ads and included libelous claims about my voting record on school safety policies.
Part of a healthy democracy is holding public officials accountable via criticism, questions, and debate. In my view, it just comes with the territory. These attack ads go far, far beyond any of that. Setting aside, for a moment, the counterfactual lies and distortions included in the content of the attack pieces, there are more sinister intentions behind the ads. The imagery is a clear attempt to sow fear among parents, inflame partisan tensions, and leverage the tragedy of mass school shootings to score political points.
As a parent, I am disgusted by this transparent attempt to evoke fear for the safety of my kids. As a County Commissioner, I am appalled by the idea that school safety is, or should be, a partisan issue. Surely, this is one issue we can all agree on, right?
"This was no one-off mistake. This mailer was a flat lie. Malicious. Foul. And it wasn't the only one. There is at least one other mailer and several Facebook ads, too. The general gist of all of them is more lies." - Chattanooga Times
The reaction to these attacks has been swift and decisive. People are repulsed both by the content and the tactics. In response to the attack mailers blanketing our community, hundreds of friends and neighbors have shared facts about school safety and have unequivocally condemned these attacks publicly.
I want to personally thank everyone—from childhood friends to complete strangers—who spoke out in opposition to these baseless attacks. The outpouring of support from across the community--including both Republicans and Democrats, old and young, parents and non-parents, teachers, business owners, and more--has been overwhelming.
No matter who the kind words or messages came from, everyone agreed on one thing: our community is better than this. I believe this is true--and that we can prove it at the ballot box on August 4th.
Check The Facts: News Coverage
Ham. Co. Commission candidate distances from flyers accusing opponent of "opening door" for school shooters - July 29th, 2022 (Local 3 News)
GOP goes dirty with lies in local campaigns - July 26th, 2022 (Chattanooga Times Editorial Page)
Note: the Chattanooga Free Press Editorial page also responded to the attacks).
'I'm ashamed:' Campaign flyer suggests Hamilton Co. commissioner soft on school security - July 26th, 2022 (News Channel 9)
'Good grief,' Hamilton County commissioner says of mailers - July 26th, 2022 (Chattanooga Times-Free Press)