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Politics as it ought to be

Local editorial

The Bates-Wright race isn't, with negative inaccuracies on both sides

We Can Do Better, reads the bold red headline at the top of Jim Wright's Senate District — campaign flier attacking Alan Bates.

Sure, and how about laying off the attacks as a first step?

Maybe negatives are inevitable in a race as furiously fought as this one, which is pitting one smart, nice-guy candidate against another in one of the most expensive legislative contests in the state. That doesn't make them right.

Consider: Alan Bates just DIDN'T SHOW UP!, Republican Wright's attack last week on Democrat Bates' decision to skip a special session called over the state budget last spring. Bates did skip, as did all but two House Democrats, but it wasn't because he didn't care about the budget. It was because the Democrats believed the Republicans were twisting the purpose of the session to political ends.

Consider: Wright's muddying, early in the campaign, of Bates' record on support of a sales tax. I have personally been in favor ... of a sales tax, Wright quoted Bates as saying. In fact, the quote should have read: I have personally been in favor of lowering the income tax and pushing for consideration of a sales tax.

Bates isn't completely clean here, either, despite his pledge to resist negative campaigning. He responded to the sales tax charge by mailing a flier headlined Jim Wright, that was wrong, and showing an apparent constituent giving a thumbs-down sign. Another asked, Who's behind Jim Wright's misleading attacks? and then answered with attacks of its own about Wright's acceptance of money from special interests that have fought to weaken clean water and clean air safeguards.

— If none of this is completely inaccurate, none of it gives us an accurate picture of the situation, either.

It doesn't tell us that Bates has been a thoughtful, attentive, responsible and influential legislator. It doesn't help us understand that Wright is a longtime community leader who would bring some fresh ideas to Salem. It distracts from the real issue: how well either man would serve in Salem.

Maybe that's just politics as usual. In our book, though, it's not politics as it ought to be.