Negative campaigning, one step (way) too far

Deval Patrick, the front-running candidate for governor of Massachusetts (and my preferred candidate), sent out a blast e-mail just now that detailed a nightmare that his sister went through with her husband. Mr. Patrick argues that his opponent, Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, has made this issue a public one in the context of the gubernatorial campaign.

“My sister and her husband went through a difficult time, and through hard work and prayer, they repaired their relationship and their lives. Now they and their children — who knew nothing of this — have had their family history laid out on the pages of a newspaper. Why? For no other reason than that they had the bad luck to have a relative who is running for governor. It’s pathetic and it’s wrong. By no rules of common decency should their private struggles become a public issue.”

If true, I couldn’t agree more.  (Healey says it’s not true.)  Somebody, no doubt antagonistic to Mr. Patrick, leaked this story.  The general point still stands: there are already too many disincentives to entering public life in America, particularly through the electoral process.

As a related matter, the Lieutenant Governor has made an issue of the fact that Mr. Patrick’s running mate, Worcester Mayor Tim Murray, defended acccused sex offenders as a defense attorney. As the AP reported, “On Friday, Healey opened a fresh line of attack, criticizing Worcester Mayor Tim Murray, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor and Patrick’s running mate, for handling appeals of people challenging their classification by the Sex Offender Registry Board. Murray is a defense attorney, but he said he took some of the cases at the request of the court. ‘I know that the court needs people to take these cases, and that it’s part of our adversarial system,’ Healey said. ‘The question is, simply, ‘Is that the priority that you want to have your next governor and lieutenant governor to have?'”

The Lieutenant Governor’s posture on this issue is almost as maddening as the possible leak of a Patrick family matter. Should helping people defend their Consitutional rights, whether or not they are guilty, disqualify someone from holding state office? Again, what an irresponsible assault on what it means to be a public servant.

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