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Dark money leaves candidates in dark

The state Senate race in District 3, one of the most expensive in the state, is also the most negative among Southern Oregon contests. Most of the negativity early on came from Republican Dave Dotterrer, who is trying for the second time to unseat Democratic Sen. Alan Bates, D-Medford. Now, attack ads aimed at Dotterer have begun to appear — although not from Bates directly.

Bates said he had nothing to do with ads falsely accusing Dotterrer of opposing criminal background checks for gun purchasers, and vowed to call the groups responsible, tell them to stop and apologize to Dotterrer. For his part, Dotterrer says he was shocked and surprised to see a recent mailer from Oregon Right To Life depicting a 5-month-old fetus and accusing Bates of supporting abortion throughout pregnancy.

Dotterrer defends the ads sent out by his campaign that attack Bates for votes on taxes, school funding and other issues, saying his opponent's voting record in office is fair game. That's true. It's also true that legislative votes taken out of context can be misleading, and can be twisted in any number of ways.

It's clear to us that Dotterrer has conducted a more negative campaign than Bates, whose own ads have avoided mentioning Dotterrer at all. But that hasn't stopped Bates' supporters from weighing in with attacks on Dotterrer as Election Day approaches. And there is nothing Bates can do about that except ask the groups responsible to stop, which they are under no obligation to do. The same is true for Dotterrer in dealing with third parties attacking Bates.

What's unfortunate about all this is that so much money is being spent by groups outside Southern Oregon who have a vested interest in which party controls the Oregon Senate in 2015. Meanwhile, voters in Senate District 3 care about who will best represent them and look out for their interests — which may have little to do with power politics.

Here's a thought: Voters should consider the source of campaign ads they see, dismiss any that don't come directly from the Bates or Dotterrer campaigns, and look at those that do with a skeptical eye. We're confident that voters are smart enough to see through the hype and make up their own minds, even if the interest groups aren't.