Nasty Mailings

Last night, the NTDO Executive Committee held its monthly meeting. The agenda included the usual housekeeping items, finances, etc. as well as discussion of future New Trier Dems events and Get Out The Vote Election Day plans. But it was a subject not on the agenda that generated a passionate discussion.

Our President, Judy Mandel, said she has been receiving a string of complaints from fellow Democrats about the over-the-top, negative and sometimes especially nasty mailing pieces sent out by “friends of” one of our endorsed candidates. We all agreed that this was very disappointing to see and that it reflected poorly on the endorsed candidate and, by association, our organization.

Someone pointed out that First Amendment free speech allows political campaigns to distribute detrimental information about their political rivals. And we all conceded that letting the electorate know damaging facts about an opponent can be an important service to the voter. But the operative word here is “facts.”

It’s one thing to reveal an unfavorable fact about an opponent. This is hardball politics that anyone running for office should expect. However, it is something else entirely to distribute messaging with half-truths, innuendo and convoluted interpretations of events that blatantly distort reality. For an added impact in this style of ham-fisted messaging, a carefully selected and filtered photo of the opponent is often featured that gives him or her the appearance of a psychopath or a suspected war criminal. — The style used in the worst of the mailings sent out by our endorsed candidate’s “friends” fits this description.

(I would add that using outlandish photos of an opponent often leads to a contest between campaigns to find the most unattractive photo of the other guy. This is dumb and accomplishes nothing. It just lowers the level of communication, appears childish and turns off many voters.)

Of course such crude political mailings aren’t something new to any of us. It’s a style that Chicago Machine politicians have used for decades. Many political advertising “experts” believe this cynically manipulative messaging is the proven way to win elections. (Sadly, too often it is.) And apparently, the old guard continues to support this thinking, as it appears their approach has influenced the mailings in question.

At this point in reading you may be wondering, “Why is the NTDO Executive Board even rocking the boat? Your membership made their endorsements so that’s that.” But this extremely negative campaign approach is directly at odds with what our organization stands for. The New Trier Democrats’ credo is “Idealism, Integrity, Independence.” To ignore such campaign activities associated with one of our endorsed candidates would be a betrayal of each of those three words. 

I might add that as someone who spent a career in advertising, this crude style of political communication personally bothers me. To spend much of your campaign’s resources on denigrating your competition only makes me wonder if you have a strong story to tell about yourself. It’s certainly a questionable tactic, especially if you hope to impress the politically engaged Democrats in our area.

The other troubling aspect of this controversy was alluded to earlier – “the old guard.” By far the biggest contributor* to the campaign in question, is the party apparatus. They have provided tens of thousands of dollars to help support an effort that has certainly not enhanced the image of our party or political campaigning.

As an organization that has been around for more than a half-century, the NTDO membership understands the importance of providing strong financial support for our party’s candidates. The Democratic Party’s war chest of funds is a vital part of that process. However, over the years we have seen how campaign funding controlled by a single group or individual can result in office holders who are heavily indebted to their demands. Would that be the case with our endorsed candidate? We hope it would not.

Certainly, over the years we have had some outstanding people representing us, initially aided by party funds, who have gained an admirable level of independence. Perhaps our endorsed candidate under scrutiny would too. One thing we do know for sure. At this stage in our state’s history, it’s time to move on from the rule of the old guard. But that’s a subject for a much deeper discussion in the future.

With all that said, our membership made their endorsements before most campaign literature had appeared. If our endorsed candidate is victorious on Primary Election Day, we will be supportive in the months leading up to the November Election and then keep a close eye on that officeholder in the following years. – But the fact is whoever wins on March 20, they’ll receive our support. We all want to see Democrats victorious in every contest this fall.

So, if you haven’t voted yet, take a look at all the voting information on the NTDO website. Our NTDO endorsements, early voting sites, your local polling place address are all there. Put the web link for that NTDO page on your phone so you can refer to it in the polling place.

And while you’re preparing your voting plan, take a close look at the literature you have received, or no doubt will keep on receiving over the next 13 days. And if any of it seems super-negative, take another real close look. Then decide.

Nels Howard
NTDO member since 1973

P.S. Several of NTDO’s endorsed candidates have found themselves on the receiving end of the kind of nasty negative mailings described above. Can you spot the similarities between them?

*Source: Illinois Sunshine – The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform


MWRD Commissioner Debra Shore has asked the NTD News to make a special effort to present the names of the the MWRD candidates that she hopes to have as partners on the board. They are all recommended by the NTDO leadership. Note: The Cam Davis write-in is extremely important because he must receive over 8000 write-ins to be elected. The voting machines allow you to type in his name. Remember it.


6 Year Term, Vote For 3
CANDIDATE NAME                                BALLOT #

Marcelino Garcia                                     61

X  Martin J. Durkan                                 64

2 Year Term(Unexpired Term), Vote For 1
CANDIDATE NAME                                BALLOT #

2 Year Term(Unexpired Term-Bradford Vacancy), Vote For 1CANDIDATE NAME                               BALLOT #