Civility on the campaign trail Positive pledge: Candidates for Anne Arundel executive vow to refrain from negative campaigning.

September 30, 1998

JOHN G. GARY, the Republican executive in Anne Arundel County, and Janet S. Owens, his Democratic challenger, have pledged to be civil to each other during the five weeks leading to the Nov. 3 general election.

Most voters would welcome such a refreshing departure from what has become the norm.

With the advent of paid consultants and large campaign contributions, state and national political campaigns have adopted an increasingly hard edge. The "experts," relying on polls and focus groups, convince candidates that they are better off attacking their opponents than promoting their own records and qualifications.

Consultants have made a truism from the political axiom that people "don't vote for candidates, they vote against them." With or without such high-priced help, some local candidates have followed this model, resulting in a barrage of campaign literature, radio and television spots that focus on real and imagined failings of their opponents. Most of these campaigns shamelessly rely on innuendo, guilt by association and gross misrepresentation of fact.

In campaigns of this fashion, voters have no idea whom they are electing.

Sometimes, the winners have gone to such lengths to tarnish others that they have failed to define themselves. Other candidates may overcome mudslinging by an opponent but have trouble cleansing themselves of the negative image so they can govern effectively once they get into office.

Anne Arundel can avoid this outcome. Mr. Gary has established a record and is well-known to voters. Ms. Owens has the opportunity to define herself and what she supports.

By Election Day, voters in Anne Arundel should will have a sense of what each candidate would do in office.

Pub Date: 9/30/98

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