Negative campaigning recently became an unpleasant feature of the Colorado Senate seat race, within both the Romanoff-Bennet contest for the Democratic Party and the Buck-Norton contest for the Republican Party. Mindful of this backdrop, the Colorado Coffee Party movement sent a letter to 58 candidates for offices throughout Colorado.
Kudos to the eight candidates who signed and returned the Unity Pledge included in the letter.
- John Finger, candidate for US Senate
- Kevin Bradley, candidate for US Congress (District 5)
- Walker Roberts Stapleton, candidate for State Treasurer
- Stan Garnett, candidate for Attorney General
- William Townend, candidate for Board of Education,
- Steve Bosley, candidate for UC Regent
- Melissa Hart, candidate for UC Regent
- Karl Beck, candidate for Board of Education
The Unity Pledge they signed reads as follows:
“In this election, I confirm that I will find a way of campaigning without deliberately triggering anger, hatred and fear. I undertake to avoid contributing to the disuniting of America. It is the last thing we need in a time of two wars, an environmental catastrophe and an economic crisis. I commit to working against division and towards being united as a People for the good of all citizens of the United States of America.”
“The responses were from an interesting mixture of Republican, Democratic and Libertarian candidates” said Suzanne Metlay, Colorado Statewide Coordinator for the Coffee Party movement. “The Coffee Party wants to promote good government and this is the first outreach we have done to candidates. We will follow up on this further after the Primary, with the intent of reducing negative campaigning and keeping the focus on effective governance.”
According to ThisNation.com, a non-partisan website for American Government and Politics, a 1999 survey showed that voters are quite capable of distinguishing between what they feel are fair and unfair attacks in a political campaign. 57% of voters interviewed believe that negative information about a candidate is fair if it reveals talking one way and voting another, accepting campaign contributions from special interests and exposes the opponent’s voting record as an elected official.
The Coffee Party in Colorado wants candidates to know that voters are watching, perhaps more carefully than they have done before. When a negative ad is beyond the bounds of what voters feel is relevant or fair, then the effect may be just the opposite of what was intended. If the facts in the ad are wrong, that must be exposed and refuted. To make judgment calls easier, the Boulder Coffee Party group is putting together a list of resources for its members, listing websites for organizations such as Colorado Ethics Watch, Media Matters and the Colorado Government Accountability Project (CGAP).
Voters seem to be increasingly turned off by negative campaign ads but political candidates continue to use these tactics. Yet there is conflicting data about whether or not negative campaigning makes a candidate more likely to win or lose, or whether intense competition increases voter turnout or has the opposite effect of turning people off the whole political process.
For more information about the Coffee Party movement, please look up your local chapter on Facebook or visit the national website at www.coffeepartyusa.com .