Charges of negative campaigning mark governor’s race

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(Host) With two weeks to go in the campaign, the major party candidates for governor have started running TV ads that paint unflattering portraits of their opponents.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The ads are clearly aimed at the relatively high percentage of voters that are still undecided in this race. Recent polls indicate that as many as 15% of all voters are not certain who they will vote for on Election Day.

For the past five months, the campaign of Republican Jim Douglas has been flooding newsrooms across the state with a series of press releases that accuse Democrat Doug Racine of “flip flopping” on many key issues. Now the Douglas campaign is using the airwaves to deliver that message:

(Sound from Douglas advertisement)
(Narrator) “Tired of politicians who will shamelessly switch their positions on issues just to get elected? Doug Racine said he wouldn’t raise taxes but then he flip flopped. Racine tried to raid the unemployment trust fund but he flip flopped again.”

(Kinzel) Douglas’ campaign manager Neil Lunderville says the ad is not negative because it examines the record of Doug Racine:

(Lunderville) “In this election year he’s looked at the polls, he’s seen that he’s been on the wrong side of virtually every issue important to Vermonters, and he’s decided to reinvent himself. And what this ad does is brings out those facts.”

(Kinzel) Racine’s campaign manager Tom Hughes views the ad very differently. Hughes says it distorts Racine’s position on many issues and is part of strategy to push this election into the Legislature:

(Hughes) “They are feeling desperate and they feel that they need to run a negative campaign to hold Doug Racine underneath 50%, in order to have Jim Douglas selected by the Legislature in January.”

(Kinzel) The Racine campaign is responding with its own “comparison” ad:

(Sound from Racine advertisement)
(Narrator) “Why is Jim Douglas running a negative campaign attacking Doug Racine? To hide his own record. As state treasurer, Douglas failed to balance the state checkbook four years running. And Douglas was unaware of bad investments that cost state pension funds $355 million.”

(Kinzel) Neither side will comment about how much money they plan to spend on TV advertising in the final weeks of the campaign, but it’s likely that the candidates will allocate several hundred thousand dollars to this effort.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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