Mud-slinging campaign was short on issues

November 02, 2011


What many believed would be a close election in Laurel turned out to have some wide margins, with incumbent Mayor Craig Moe receiving nearly twice as many votes as second-place finisher Michael Sarich and at-large Council member Michael Leszcz easily winning re-election over challenger Adrian Rousseau.

Voter turnout was close to 11 percent, up from the paltry 3.4 percent in the 2008 City Council election, where no races were contested. That's good news, and could be the result of new voting procedures rolled out this year, such as a second voting location in Ward 2 and three days of early voting.

But from many angles, this was an ugly election in Laurel.

Voters had to wade through weeks of mudslinging campaigning in the two contested races, with plenty of he said, she said spats that drew attention away from the actual issues that the candidates should have been focused on.

This is the first election in Laurel where battles were fought, in large part, on the virtual battlefields found on popular social media sites such as Facebook and in the reader-commenting sections of stories that run on websites, such as ours.

While those that shared their opinions in places such as letters to the editor did reveal themselves by signing their names, many of those in virtual battle didn't elect to reveal their identities. It's hard to be credible when no one knows who you are. And when you don't have to sign your name, it's easy to adopt a nasty and impolite tone that can get out of hand.

This sense of anonymous bashing also came among the late flurry of campaign excitement, when a mailer supporting Moe and sent to voters anonymously by "17 city of Laurel taxpayers" prompted mayoral candidate Sarich to file a complaint with the Maryland state's attorney as to the mailer's legality.

So where do we go from here? The challengers in this year's election brought with them many concerns, and the incumbents were criticized for apparently not addressing those concerns in their terms of office. The mayor and City Council would do well to take a good look at what got people fired up, even if those people choose to remain anonymous.

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