Pensacola, Florida
Wednesday July 18th 2018

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Outtakes—Pledge to Campaign Fairly

By Rick Outzen

Dirty politics have been a part of the American political landscape since Colonial times.

Heck, listen to the “Hamilton” soundtrack, and you’ll learn how vicious our founding fathers were as they established this nation.

Alexander Hamilton loved to write letters to the editor using fake names to attack his political opponents. The duel that cost Hamilton his life was over attacks against the character of Aaron Burr.

Escambia County has a history of dirty political campaigns. When a candidate is trailing, the temptation to “go negative” can be immense, even though recently hasn’t it worked in local elections.

I’ve met many of the candidates seeking office this year, and I’m optimistic that this campaign season might be different. But I have a suggestion to keep our campaigns positive.

The chambers of commerce in some areas ask candidates to sign a fair campaign practices pledge. They will only endorse candidates that adhere to the basic principles of honesty, fairness, responsibility and respect because those who fail to uphold those principles erode the public’s trust and confidence in government.

The honesty principle mandates two commitments. First, the candidates agree that their campaign communications will present only fair, relevant and truthful information to the voters for the consideration of their candidacy and their opponents’ campaign. Secondly, they will present their positions and record candidly and forthrightly, so that the voters can judge their candidacy for office. All assertions made in their campaign communications will be documented.

As far as fairness, the candidates promise to not release irrelevant information that includes appeals to prejudices based on race, sex, sexual preferences, religion, national origin, physical health status or age, as well as information concerning the candidate’s family. Campaigns are difficult enough without bashing a candidate’s loved ones. Family members should not be targets. The candidates also agree to not take advantage of any position they hold in the public, private or nonprofit sectors to pressure people to support their campaign.

Under responsibility, they pledge to support full participation in the electoral process and will take no action to discourage such participation. The candidates agree they are fully responsible for their campaigns. They will make no excuses for mistakes. They will immediately and publicly repudiate those who take actions that are inconsistent with the conduct pledge and either help them or hurt their opponents.

To meet the respect principle, they must agree to treat all opponents and their supporters with courtesy and civility, even when they disagree about what is best for voters served by the office sought.

It’s not too late for the Greater Pensacola Chamber to adopt a pledge requirement.