Sunday, May 08, 2005

Boyle - Vokal Race Gets Ugly

by Kyle Michaelis
Since the Omaha World-Herald's endorsement of Anne Boyle over City Councilman Jim Vokal last week in Omaha's 3rd District, that race has continued to draw attention for its unrivaled expense, and now for its mud-slinging. Friday's OWH carried the following:
The most intense contest on Tuesday's ballot also is the most expensive council race in the city's history. The District 3 candidates already have spent a combined $260,000 and between them had nearly $100,000 cash on hand to spend during the final two weeks.

All this spending falls on Omaha's most diverse council district, with residents ranging from people sleeping in doorways and under bridges to America's second-richest man, Warren Buffett....

With the campaign winding down, Vokal and Boyle have few kind words for each other.

"The civility he talks about doesn't extend to me," Boyle said of Vokal.

"My wife and I are ready for the campaign to be over," Vokal said.
From the sound of it, Vokal's taken quite a beating by word-of-mouth over the issue of his sexual preference. That's cheap and low in any instance, even if it suggests immense hypocrisy on the part of a political candidate.

Those spreading these unsubstantiated rumors should be ashamed, and it brings this writer no satisfaction even giving them the time of day. However, sad as it may be, one can not write about the ugliness of these attacks without writing about the the nature of the attacks, giving them even more coverage. It's a sad dilemma but one in which the public must be trusted with the information at hand to make heads and tails of it for themselves. A news source either trusts its readers or it does not.

Well, perhaps a show of good taste, it was nevertheless poor journalism and a show of little trust in Omaha voters for today's World-Herald to run a cryptic and ultimately one-sided article that tried to address the rancor inspired by a flier attacking Vokal's sexuality without specifically mentioning the controversy. See for yourself:
A postcard aimed at damaging Councilman Jim Vokal's re-election chances against challenger Anne Boyle threw one more wild card into the hard-fought District 3 race.

The message on the pink card has nothing to do with anything that could come up before the City Council. One group mentioned in the card has disavowed the message, and another group listed is nonexistent. No return address was on the card, which apparently went to a limited number of houses Friday in the district.

Although Vokal acknowledges no proven connection to Boyle, his campaign began blaming her Saturday for taking the campaign onto a low road.

A recorded phone message going to all frequent voters has Vokal's wife, Liz, saying Boyle is responsible for the personal attack "on my husband and my family."

The campaign phone message is justified, Vokal said. "She (Boyle) is the only one who stands to benefit from it," he said.

Boyle said she knew nothing about the postcard until a couple of people called her and asked her about it. During an interview Saturday, she seemed unaware of its most provocative statements.

Such a campaign technique goes against everything she stands for, Boyle said. "As the campaign ends, this is a sad note."
How dare the Omaha World-Herald publish the accusation that Boyle is responsible for these attacks without likewise publishing the accusation made against Vokal! If the original controversy is "too hot to publish", there is no story here but one baseless accusation being printed in place of another.

This is completely irresponsible journalism just as it demonstrates irresponsible leadership on the part of Vokal to attack Boyle for something for which she is so unlikely to have had a part. Although one can never be certain in this game of lows, the resemblance of Vokal's wife's extravagant defense to that of Lynne Cheney's ("he is not a nice man") when her daughter's homosexuality became an issue in the 2004 campaign has the stench of over-whelming convenience. Presuming the Vokals are responsible for the attack in hopes of a sympathetic backlash is hardly more preposterous than Boyle's involvement. To give creedence to the one possibility demands recognition of the other, even while both appear rather far-fetched.

For further discussion and example of the ugliness spawned by campaigning and reporting in the above manner, see the UNO Democrats Blog.


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