Dirty trick mars Republican primary race in Sixth Senate District
Type in “glenurquhartforsenate.com” on your browser and naturally you’ll find a website supporting Glen Urquhart.
And that’s exactly what it says: “NOT Glen Urquhart for State Senate.”
Even if you missed the “NOT” you’d figure out right away this site isn’t supporting Urquhart. It includes as unflattering a picture as the tall, fit 63-year-old can take.
Urquhart, who will be facing Ernesto “Ernie” Lopez in a Sept. 11 primary for the Sixth Senate District Republican nomination, is on the receiving end of a political dirty trick.
“Welcome to politicking in the age of the internet,” said Duke Brooks, communications director for the Sussex County Republican Committee.
I learned about the website from what appeared to be a professionally done mailing that I received at home. It contained no information about who sent it.
The mailing trumpets a small-potatoes charge that Urquhart had paid former Redskins player Brian Mitchell $2,000 to appear at a campaign event during his unsuccessful 2010 Congressional run against John Carney.
Ho-hum. If this is what passes for campaign dirt in 2012, then we either have extremely clean politicians or political operatives who need to try harder.
The website, however, is another matter. It leads readers to 20-year-old stories in the Washington Post that detail some of Urquhart’s earlier business dealings, including:
• A failed horseracing track venture in Loudon County, Va., that filed for bankruptcy in 1994, listing $5.5 million in assets and $25 million in liabilities.
• An Urquhart-owned site in Virginia that was in “arrears on three years of county taxes, about $1.5 million.”
After being told Urquhart was unavailable, I spoke to Jonathan Graham, his campaign manager, who said he didn’t know who was responsible for the website.
The campaign has known about the mailing “for a few weeks,” Graham said. “Some were mailed, some were attached to mailboxes.”
(Which, in a minor way, is interesting, since it’s illegal to attach things to mailboxes.)
Much of the information on the website, Graham said, goes back to Urquhart’s 2010 race against Carney.
He called the website a “distraction. It doesn’t talk about what’s important to the voters - jobs.”
“We kind of expected it,” he said. “Critics are always sharpest when things are going well.”
Graham said Urquhart is concentrating on his campaign, calling on both homes and businesses, which he said are receptive because “he speaks their language.”
Are the 1990s Washington Post stories relevant to the 2012 campaign? No, he said, dismissing them as part of an anonymous attack.
Urquhart’s opponent, Ernie Lopez, doesn’t quite agree. Lopez, who back in April promised a clean campaign, said, “I have no idea who is behind it.
“It’s not something that any of us have authorized,” he said.
But he doesn’t consider the Washington Post stories irrelevant. Urquhart speaks of his “fiduciary stewardship,” Lopez said, but there are a lot of situations where he hasn’t done well for himself or his partners.
He said the items on the website appear to be valid - “Everything seems to be cited,” he said - but he doesn’t plan to use them for his campaign.
Instead, he too is out canvassing the district, which is new to Sussex County.
(The Sixth Senate District, which takes in Rehoboth, Lewes and Milton, was moved from New Castle County following the redistricting after the 2010 census.)
“I’m out three nights a week after work and all day on Saturday,” Lopez said.
He said he divided the district into seven areas, and he’s hit all seven at least once. He plans to hit them again before primary day.
Brooks also said he doesn’t know who is the behind the attacks.
“This is the first I’ve heard of it,” he said. “It could come from anybody.”
“We [the Republican Party] feel this type of thing should not take place,” he said, “and is really beneath the dignity of what should be happening in these serious political campaigns.”
Not that he was entirely surprised. The 2010 campaign included an anonymous website directed against Rep. Pete Schwarztzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach. “The whole country is so divided now,” he said. “And the emotions on both sides are running high.”