In council races, complaints of dirty tricks surface over weekend | Blogh

Monday, May 16, 2011

In council races, complaints of dirty tricks surface over weekend

Posted By on Mon, May 16, 2011 at 1:27 PM

In local politics, the final days before an election are when complaints of dirty tricks reach their apogee. And like clockwork,  one candidate in city council district 9 is alleging "11th hour trickery."

According to the campaign of Lucille Prater-Holliday, someone is making a series of prank phone calls, using a campaign phone number.

Matt Merriman-Preston, a campaign consultant for Prater-Holliday, said the calls -- which have included hang-ups and in one case, someone yelling into the phone -- were believed to have been made over the weekend. When residents used the call-back function on their phone, they got a number used by the campaign. The campaign received 100 such calls back -- and Preston surmises that "thousands" of District 9 homes may have received them.

Merriman-Preston worries that the calls may be an attempt to antagonize potential Prater-Holliday supporters, and worries that misinformation might be getting spread as well. But he acknowledges that other than the fact Election Day is tomorrow, "there's no evidence" tying the calls to Prater-Holliday's opponents, incumbent Ricky Burgess or Phylilis Copeland Mitchell.

Even so, a press release from the Prater-Holliday makes an issue out of the matter: It asks that Burgess and Copeland-Mitchell "repudiate any illegal or deceptive campaign tactics" and to "let the campaign know if they have any information about the calls."

Preston says it's impossible the calls came from the office: The phone line residents are getting is used through a Google service, and can receive calls but not make outgoing ones. So although the campaign made calls all weekend, Preston says, no one in the office could have used the number.

Burgess said he knew nothing about the calls, and Copeland-Mitchell too denied any involvement. "I have tried to maintain a positive campaign," she says. And in any case, she adds, Prater-Holliday isn't alone. "There are so many things I can say that have been done to me after I received the [Democratic Party] endorsement, but I'm not going to make a big deal about it."

Over in District 1, meanwhile, city council President Darlene Harris has some complaints of her own. A broken window at her campaign headquarters has gotten attention from media outlets and bloggers alike.

Of course, broken window glass cuts both ways. If a rival did shatter Harris' window, he did so without reflecting on the fact that it makes Harris look like a victim. (That's two glass-related puns in one paragraph, for those keeping track at home.)

Indeed, the Harris campaign, which Merriman-Preston also works with, circulated a photo of the damage, as well as a statement.

In the statement, Team Harris pointedly noted that "This incident comes close to the end of a campaign that has been marked by the incumbent City Councilwoman being targeted with theft of yard signs, misleading attack ads, and items being throw at her personal vehicle while driving at night."

Speaking of attack ads, Harris has responded to a flyer we reported on last week -- circulated by mayoral-backed challenger Vince Pallus -- with a flyer of her own. The Harris response is, essentially, to take Pallus head-on, and assert that the city council president makes no apologies for bringing money and civic improvements into her district.

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