ERICKSON: Truth and hurt

May 23, 2014 

My friend Andrew Breitbart had a great saying he used often. “Truth may hurt, but is not mean. It’s truth.” In politics, people consider a campaign going negative when they reveal unpleasant facts about a candidate. But there are always objective lines on truth and truthfulness.

Pointing out multiple tax liens and lawsuits against a candidate may be harsh or negative, but that is because truth may hurt. But it is not mean. It is truth. Voters will eventually find it out. That said, something called the Georgia Business Coalition decided to do an attack piece on Spencer Price pointing out his tax and legal problems in his state Senate race. It probably did more harm than good for my friend John Kennedy.

Most voters did not realize Kennedy had nothing to do with the mail piece. Even voters who did probably had no idea Kennedy had no knowledge of the piece. By law, a campaign cannot coordinate with an outside group on those things. When the Kennedy campaign saw that mail piece for themselves they knew it was going to hurt them. But that might have actually turned a corner for the Kennedy campaign in a way few realized until election day.

The Price campaign, whose media was largely terrible, came up with a really effective advertisement about John Kennedy suing a church. Again, this is where truth and negativity come into play. The tax liens and lawsuits going one way were true, but the truth was that Kennedy never sued a church. That did not stop the advertisement, which ran repeatedly at drive time and was very well produced. My compliments to whoever designed it.

The ad attacked Kennedy for suing a church and expanded a theme that Kennedy would be a liberal trial lawyer backed by trial lawyers who would push a liberal trial lawyer agenda. In fact, the case the Price campaign put in the ad was a really fascinating one that had made headlines.

A preacher called a woman an adulterer and fornicator. The preacher’s daughter was dating that woman’s ex-husband. The preacher’s daughter could not marry the ex-husband in the church unless his divorce had been because of the woman’s unfaithfulness. So the preacher, being a dad trying to help his daughter, publicly accused the woman of adultery. Even the woman’s ex-husband admitted she had never committed adultery. Kennedy represented the woman. She sued the preacher, not the church. And she won as she should have.

The 18th state Senate district is made up of all of Crawford, Peach, Monroe and Upson counties. Price won them all, though quite narrowly in some cases. But parts of Bibb and Houston are also in the district and both areas have large legal communities. The Price advertisements personalized the race for a good bit of that community. With Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter guaranteed wins, many lawyers voted Kennedy just to spite what they felt were personal attacks on them.

The attacks also galvanized Kennedy’s home base -- Bibb County. Despite a grassroots network of sound and bluster in Bibb County pushing hard for Price, 71 percent of Bibb County turned out for Kennedy. A long night came to a swift conclusion once Bibb’s votes were counted. The race people were watching: Hart versus Rickman for the Macon Water Authority chair turned out to be a sleeper. Kennedy versus Price was a nail-biter. And it ended with an overplayed attack backfiring. It was fascinating to watch. Congrats to all the victors.

Now the actual hard work begins for many of them.

Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.

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