The fact that anyone – a candidate, someone acting on behalf of a candidate, someone attempting to smear a candidate, it doesn’t really matter – would ask a polling question like this: “Would your vote for Delegate be affected if you knew that Delegate [insert opponent’s name here] is a closet homosexual?” is a very serious matter, for a number of reasons, for anyone who cares about decency and ethics in politics. Let’s take a step back and try to look dispassionately at this telephone poll conducted in Lynn Chapman’s name.
Regarding the poll itself, a Chapman supporter at Too Conservative says this: “There is absolutely no way my original source would make this up.” Numerous reputable individuals of different political orientations have reported receiving the calls, and have corroborated the wording of the questions. Recipients who stayed on the line through the entire call were told that it was “paid for by the House Republican Campaign Committee and Chapman for Delegate.” The notion that this is a fabricated story is, at this point, a non-starter.
Rather, the issue is who is responsible. A variety of different explanations have been put forward by Chapman supporters:
- Some are saying that Mr. Chapman is an honorable guy who would never do something like this. This claim assumes a priori that the questions at issue would be devastating to a campaign revealed to have used them.
- The Chapman campaign itself categorically denies asking these questions, characterizes the poll reports as “rumor,” and accuses Delegate David Poisson of using the “rumor” to smear his character. This is in line with position 1) above.
- Some are saying that it was the “(Dick) Black Brigade” acting without Chapman’s knowledge or consent. Ditto.
- Some are saying that it was either the Poisson campaign or rogue Democrats in an act of political sabotage. Ditto.
- Some are saying that the poll never took place, that there were “two polls,” or that the respondents “misunderstood” the questions, and that the reports can be disregarded. Ditto.
- Some are saying that such questions are an example of “message testing” and are “a completely legitimate form of research” to determine the efficacy of raising particular issues in the course of the campaign. This position is based on a very different assumption about the appropriateness of the questions.
- Some are even saying that Chapman asked these questions because there must be some truth to their implications, and further suggest that the Poisson campaign is “smearing” the questions as a “push poll” because they are in damage control mode. Ditto.
As is readily apparent, Chapman’s supporters don’t even agree on whether or not this poll is something he needs to explain.
Now, let’s look at the press release. Chapman’s spokesman denies that he did or would ever ask such questions, calling them “offensive and inappropriate,” and claiming that the poll itself was only a rumor that someone (his opponent, by implication) made up in order to smear him.
Later, there was a shift. Perhaps the evidence that the poll did in fact happen became too overwhelming to pretend otherwise. According to Tammi Marcoullier, “Campaign manager Billy Kirkland was very clear that ‘the campaign’ did not ask offensive and inappropriate questions. ‘If supporters are doing this, we do not approve of it, nor are we in contact with anyone who is doing this,’ said Kirkland.”
So now, the Chapman campaign seems to be acknowledging that someone made these calls, and further suggesting that a supporter did this in Chapman’s name without his knowledge or consent. This is a rather serious (and legally actionable) matter, whether it was done by “supporters” or by someone else in an act of sabotage. As this commenter on Too Conservative notes:
[I]f my campaign didn’t do anything wrong, I would be livid that someone out there was committing an ongoing fraud specifically designed to damage my reputation. I would be contacting the very people who were contacted and “polled” to facilitate getting their phone records for a criminal investigation.
But it doesn’t seem like any of the above are happening, which leaves us to wonder: Why?
Exactly. Additionally, if he is a gentleman, Mr. Chapman needs to acknowledge the gross disregard shown for Mr. Poisson’s family – even if he is not responsible for it. To leave standing the current press release, which is nothing more than a boilerplate, unsubstantiated swat at his opponent, makes him look terribly insincere, and as if he just wants this matter to go away.
This much we know: Someone, in the misguided belief that calling someone gay is a smear, maligned a man’s fidelity to his partner and family. Sad as it is, there are apparently still some politicians in this community who are willing to sink this low to turn out a narrow wedge of voters so stupid that they would vote solely on the basis of a candidate’s sexual orientation. They don’t care who they hurt, as long as they can squeak out a “victory.” Is Lynn Chapman one of them? If it turns out that he is, he needs to be sent packing.
That kind of foul behavior simply doesn’t belong in this community.