Lesson Learned - If You Can't Say Something Nice...
Municipal elections are finally over and both Mobile and Tuscaloosa have new mayors. In less than a month both Sam Jones and Walt Maddox will be sworn in as mayor. Now that we can view the tumultuous campaign season in hindsight there is one major lesson to be learned:
Negative Politics Doesn't Always Work
Both losing candidates were the first to go negative.
After coming in a distant second in the Mobile mayoral primary, John Peavy knew he had to make up alot of ground before the runoff, but it was also apparent he had to do some damage to Sam Jones' political standing. Peavy's negative attacks weren't surprising, but his attacks fell flat as local media criticized Peavy ("Sleazy Peavy") for perceived underhanded tactics. Peavy's negativity gave frontrunner Sam Jones the chance to appear more "mayoral" and above the fray. Peavy's choice to go negative was not a bad one, but his clumsy attacks backfired and have seriously damaged his political future.
Sammy Watson's decision to go on the attack in the Tuscaloosa runoff was simply baffling. Watson entered the race as the frontrunner and finished first in the August primary. However, as the runoff drew near Watson suddenly went very negative against Walt Maddox. A backlash ensued and Watson had to run ads virtually apologizing for his earlier attacks. The dynamics of the runoff (message, turnout) seemed to be in Maddox's favor, but Sammy Watson drove the stake through his own campaign with his unnecessary, ham-handed attacks.
A vigorous debate is expected and necessary in a political campaign. Candidates need not always be polite, as this is not always a polite society. I have no problem with negative tactics, but neither of these candidates used attack politics effectively. If you're gonna fight dirty, at least do it smart.