Campaigns Going Negative as Election Nears
Oct. 18, 1996
PHOENIX (AP) _ Republican Rep. J.D. Hayworth told supporters last year to prepare for a campaign filled with ``mud, misstatements and lies.'' His campaign against Democrat Steve Owens has been just that.
Despite warnings from pollsters that negative campaigning turns off voters, the closing weeks of the congressional campaign are bringing out the seedy side in races across the political map.
Owens has accused Hayworth of ``playing fast and loose with the truth.'' Hayworth has called Owens a carpetbagger who moved into the district just last year.
``All he does is talk about me personally,'' Owens said. ``He likes to attach a lot of labels to people without providing any basis for his assertions.''
Hayworth, a former sportscaster, was elected to Congress in 1994 with 55 percent of the vote. An enthusiastic supporter of Newt Gingrich's Contract with America, he quickly became a spokesman for the Republican freshmen.
As a freshman, he is one of the incumbents being targeted by Democrats in their campaign to regain control of the House. The AFL-CIO also has dumped money into the district as part of its $35 million national campaign to unseat Republicans it views as vulnerable.
Democrats need a net gain of 18 seats to win control.
``Negative advertising is very, very powerful,'' said Karen Johnson Cartee, a political scientist at the University of Alabama. Such ads ``provide information, they change attitudes and they motivate people to vote.''
_In Georgia, Democratic Rep. Cynthia McKinney expressed embarrassment after her father called GOP opponent John Mitnick a ``racist Jew.''
_In three House districts in California, Republicans have used images of Richard Allen Davis, the convicted killer of 12-year-old Polly Klaas, in attacks on their Democratic opponents as soft on the death penalty. The slain girl's father has denounced the ads as exploitation.
_After Montana House candidate Rick Hill attacked Democrat Bill Yellowtail's personal life, Hill's former wife went public with Hill's own fling with a cocktail waitress 20 years ago.
_In Iowa, an attack ad for Republican House candidate Michael Mahaffey that started running Friday abruptly ended the pledge he and Democrat Leonard Boswell made to avoid attacking each other. The ad _ accusing Boswell of being a ``tool'' of the ``liberal special interests'' _ is being run by the National Republican Congressional Committee, not Mahaffey. But he has tacitly accepted it by not asking for it to be pulled.
In Arizona's 6th District, which stretches from metropolitan Phoenix to the Navajo Reservation in northeastern Arizona, Hayworth landed the most recent blow, unleashing a television ad criticizing Owens for taking $5,000 in donations from a labor group whose ``bosses have admitted their connection to organized crime.''
In a debate Wednesday, Owens accused Hayworth of trying to link him to the mob. ``That's the ultimate purpose of the ad,'' he said.
A lawyer and former chief counsel to then-Sen. Al Gore, Owens has said he was proud to have accepted a contribution from the Laborers International Union _ a group that has been ousting its own corrupt officials since 1994 under Justice Department supervision. He also pointed out that dozens of Republicans in Congress accepted similar donations and that Hayworth took contributions from the AFL-CIO.
Gov. Fife Symington has echoed Hayworth's criticism of Owens as a carpetbagger who ``doesn't know anything about the district he's running in.''
Both Owens and Hayworth moved to Arizona in the 1980s. Owens moved into the district itself last year.
The first blood spilled in the race was Hayworth's. Two weeks before the Sept. 10 primary election, he admitted a staffer had forged his signature on a campaign affidavit filed with state officials.
The signature was on a document dated June 27. A second document was filed July 3 _ six days after the filing deadline _ with Hayworth's true signature.
Hayworth called the forgery a ``terrible mistake'' but insists he made up for it by eventually firing the staffer. State Democrats disagreed, calling for Hayworth to be kicked off the ballot.
Attorney General Grant Woods is investigating but said Hayworth will stay on the ballot.
So how are voters taking all this?
A survey of district voters three weeks ago showed Hayworth and Owens in a statistical dead heat _ Hayworth with 36 percent and Owens with 32 percent in a poll with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Neither man takes blame for the nasty tenor of the campaign.
``I deeply regret the fact that the rhetoric has been turned up a notch. I regret the fact that my opponent has been so shrill,'' Hayworth said.
``The first mark of civility is to tell the truth,'' he said.
Owens said he's done just that and would rather be spending his time talking about issues.
``I've been trying to talk about Congressman Hayworth's votes on Medicare, on education, on student loans, on the environment, on pension reform, campaign finance reform _ all the issues that people of the Sixth District tell me they want to hear about in this campaign.''