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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control

Sunday Spin2: Some campaign tactics to rethink

The 2015 election won’t set any records, but it may have provided us with a few tactics which future campaigns might want to avoid.

Spokane City Council President Candidate John Ahern may have proved that in politics, silence is not golden. From the day he filed for office, Ahern told Spokesman-Review reporters he would not do interviews or answer questions on issues for features comparing the candidates’ stances. His reasoning was that the paper had always been negative to Republicans, a theme common on some talk radio shows and certain circles. But it doesn't hold up under scrutiny for a newspaper that has endorsed all but two GOP candidates for president since 1900, and backed many Republicans in the current election on its editorial page.

Reporters don't actually care about the endorsements. Ahern has been annoyed by some past coverage, but when it comes to politicians, we strive to be equal opportunity annoyers.

“I’ll give you an interview after I win,” was his standard reply. He lost almost 2-to-1 to incumbent Ben Stuckart -- the campaign had other problems, so it's not like this one tactic sealed his fate -- but that interview is now out the window.

Opponents of Tim Eyman’s regular ballot measures for tax controls went to their standard playbook of denouncing the supermajority for tax increases plan, then filing a lawsuit to keep it off the ballot (which history showed was doomed to fai, and it did), then excoriating it as undemocratic and unconstitutional, trashing Eyman and pointing to polls that showed the initiative was trailing.

The outcome was the same as previous initiatives. Eyman’s supermajority plans are 6-0 at the ballot box. On Friday opponents were touting the fact that King County had voted 60 percent against the measure, and thanking voters there and in three other counties for recognizing the initiative is “bad public policy.”

What, like voters in the other 35 counties are too stupid to understand?

They are now preparing for a court challenge. Eyman’s record isn’t as good in the courts, but without a change in the opponents’ playbook, that’s likely where they will continue to end up after voters pass them.

Candidates and campaigns that employ either of these in the future might expect the same results.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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