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Editorial: Dems’ dust-up: smoke, but little fire

Jackson County Democrats hit a patch of turbulence this week, as the party’s campaign chairwoman resigned and one candidate for the State Senate District 3 nomination called on another to drop out of the race.

Something happened, although it’s tough to say exactly what if party officials won’t share the details.

No one is dropping out, nor should they. Voters in the Democratic primary should focus on the four candidates, not on the infighting.

Candidate Kevin Stine, a Medford City Council member, accused the party of providing candidate Jeff Golden’s campaign with a list of neighborhood leaders assigned to contact their neighbors and urge them to vote. Golden’s campaign, run by longtime political strategist and former Ashland Mayor Cathy Shaw (who also was formerly married to Golden), denies receiving any improper information. Shaw said of the list, “We didn’t get it, and we don’t want it.”

Knowing Shaw’s reputation as a shrewd campaign organizer, we do not doubt her assertion that a list of neutral volunteers is of no use to her. Shaw also noted that Stine and candidate Julian Bell could have obtained the same list, because they are neighborhood leaders.

Campaign chairwoman Julie McFadden said she didn’t pass any information to the Golden campaign, but said an action she took could have contributed to the perception of bias, so she resigned. She did not say what that action was.

Bell, a Medford physician, spoke highly of McFadden, who offered training and other assistance to candidates, and said he didn’t think she had “done anything mischievous.”

The fourth candidate, Athena Goldberg, said she’s too focused on her own campaign to pay close attention to the controversy, which she called a distraction.

Stine issued a news release Monday calling on Golden to drop out of the race — a move that is hard to take seriously given the lack of evidence of any wrongdoing by Golden or his campaign.

Still, the veil of secrecy surrounding what may or may not have occurred within the party organization raises more questions than it answers. A party that prides itself on transparency is not setting a very good example by issuing vague statements citing “concerns about access to internal party data” without further explanation.

Meanwhile, the two Republican candidates are working to win their party’s nomination to what has been a closely fought Senate seat. If the Democrats want to prevail in November, they should explain what happened and move on.