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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Attorney General, the folkbum endorsement: Peg Lautenschlager

You probably saw it coming, but here's my endorsement in the Democratic Attorney General primary: Peg Lautenschlager.

I spent a lot of time last year talking about this race, and very little doing so this year. Until the last week or so, the race has been kind of a sleeper, and I've been saving up what I have to say. But to recap:

I was never in favor of Kathleen Falk's getting into the race. Not because I don't like her or don't think that she'd do a good job--she is head, shoulders, and torso above the Republican competition--but because the only to challenge Peg is her DUI. Well, that, and she is not a big campaigner, which when it comes to AG I think could be a good thing. I cautioned that a high-profile primary could suck the life out other solid Democratic pick-up chances. And it didn't take long after Falk announced her candidacy before the ugly stories stared, and I was feeling pretty pessimistic.

However, things got quiet. For a long time, I was impressed by the way Falk kept the campaign on the issues, and Peg kept quietly doing her job. Even when there was a disagreement over whether to make first-time DUIs a felony, Falk didn't tie it directly to Peg. I was thinking I'd end up staying true to my initial instinct not to endorse at all.

And then things got ugly. You might say that Peg started it with a relatively negative ad on Falk's experience. (A later ad also challenged Falk's contributor list--and ad that had to be changed to be more accurate.) But the response--almost as if Falk had it in the can--was about the DUI. You can see the ad on YouTube through Fred's place.

As Tony Palmieri phrased it, it was the end to Falk's "wink and nod campaign." I don't remember where I read it, but perhaps the best description of last week's ad wars is that Peg went negative, but Falk went dirty.

And this is what I was afraid of.

One reason I endorsed Scot Ross is that Doug LaFollette refused to debate, fearing it would give ammunition to the Republicans. Falk and Peg have debated, but that's not where the negative ammo is going to come from.

Maybe, you might be thinking, it's good that our AG candidates are facing the tough fire now. Well, I don't know. But i would much rather see the passion, the TV time, and the press coverage go to, say, Jim Sullivan or Pat Kreitlow or John Gard's limpish personality.

In the end, I have to go back to what I've maintained all along: Peg Lautenschlager has been an excellent Attorney General, which has earned her tremendous respect and admiration and enorsements from all over the state. There is no reason--other than, perhaps, "electability"--to change course here. We should return Peg Lautenschlager to the job.

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