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Gary Horton: Trust facts, not the ads

Posted: October 3, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 3, 2012 2:00 a.m.

If your mailbox is like my mailbox, it has been assaulted with a wave of political mailers from our two Congressional District 25 candidates. Challenger Lee Rogers launched his initial salvo with a sneak attack of three consecutive mud-slinging bombs aimed squarely at longstanding Congressman, Buck McKeon.

The first, “Buck McKeon, Big Spender” was a sordid piece of work accusing Buck of being reckless with public money.

Yes, it’s true that Buck’s Armed Services Committee spends $600 billion a year on warfare (Let’s be frank, it’s not really defense anymore; we’ve got a military addiction problem), and, as part of a nowadays-dysfunctional Republican machine, Buck has voted for more budget-busting bills than Rambo shoots AK-47 rounds.

But much strained facts and the photo-shopped imagery was libelous and unnecessary.

I spoke with Rogers and he worked to explain that a challenger first has to make the public aware of the need for a change, hence the hit pieces. Then, with awareness pried opened, challengers can sell themselves. But first you have to blast a hole in the credibility of the incumbent.

Oh joy.

Yes, I can see how psychologically, all the drama might be necessary, but one would hope as an advanced species we could stick to issues and do away with mud-slinging and chest-pounding. Apparently voters are not such an advanced form of life. Mud beats logic like rock beats scissors.

I suggested to Lee that Buck is a consummate campaigner who wouldn’t take this level of personal affront lying down. Lee said a response would be a sign that “his campaign was working.”

“Working, like standing in front of an oncoming train,” I thought.

The very next day Buck’s freight train response nearly tipped over our mailbox.

Buck hit Lee Rogers with a nuclear bomb of mailers — the best I’ve seen — and also singularly the largest. The McKeon camp took no shortcuts. This 10-inch-by-20-inch folding mega-flier pushed every psych-ops button — visually, emotionally and supposedly factually. Giant pictures of Buck at his handsomest — oozing confidence, influence, experience and connections. Small, minimizing photos of a very young Rogers at his dweebiest — photos on par with the worst moments of your high school awkwardness. (Where did Buck find those pictures? We all have them of ourselves, but we keep them hidden away.)

The nice part about Buck’s flier: three-quarters laid out Buck’s experience and bio. Hurray for positive spin. The bad parts: Intentionally misleading “facts” which plainly misrepresent Rogers, his bio and his career.

The factual upshot of this mailer Armageddon: Rogers is the most serious and capable candidate to challenge Buck since Buck was a challenger himself, and Buck knows he’s in a fight.

There are huge stakes, and while conventional wisdom would say that Buck is an automatic shoo-in, with a redrawn district and discord over recent McKeon moves, there’s an arguable outside chance that Rogers might slip past the venerable congressman.

Huge money is at play. Rogers indicates he’s raised close to $300,000, and Buck’s treasure trove and supporters go even deeper. Look for even heavier artillery hammering your mailbox with even more muddy shock and awe.

That sad thing is that none of the mud is necessary on either side, as both men are capable, accomplished professionals and are fine individuals bringing respective valuable assets to our district’s table.

I’m sure we’d all be pleased, as with President Barack Obama, to have them over for a beer. (Well, in Buck’s case, lemonade.)

Buck, of course, represents the entrenched Republican establishment. Buck is the establishment, and this brings with him influence and power that would, at least, seem beneficial to our district. Buck has built district offices that truly provide efficient, valuable services to us locals.

But if you’ve got problems with Republican dogmatism and obstructionism — or if you’d prefer more love and less war — you’ll feel it’s time for Buck to go off fishing in the sunset.

Conversely, Rogers brings the strength and energy of youth. He’s a respected surgeon, built a great practice, cares deeply about the well-being of the American people, and is less concerned about never-ending, overblown overseas threats and more concerned about the more tangible and immediate concerns of health care and economic opportunity.

But Roger is a newbie, and any benefit we have from Buck’s seniority would be blown should Rogers ascend to McKeon’s spot.

So how to decide? It’s hard to hear past the static and panic of these mailbox stuffers to get to the positions and facts that matter. But this election matters like few before. Know the facts, not just mailbox filler.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.


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