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Marjorie Cortez: Political haranguing is getting tiresome

Enough, already.

Enough of the snippy or syrupy political commercials filling the radio and TV airwaves. No more mailings that depict the political opponent as the spawn of Satan or use the most unflattering images of the opponent as possible. Enough of the lawn signs and billboard clutter. And yes, (at the risk of forfeiting my 2005 pay raise) enough of the newspaper advertisements.

Make it stop, OK?

Does 11th-hour campaigning really make a difference? Who are these "undecided voters," people who don't read newspapers? Should these people decide our collective fate?

As a small, Western state that national Republican operatives consider a shoo-in and Democrats have long written off, save an occasional congressional race, there's not enough "swing" in Utah that the presidential candidates consider it worth their time to visit.

As frustrating as it is to be taken for granted and ignored, at least we're relieved of the constant haranguing that people in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Iowa must endure. Can you imagine?

For the most part, Utah's political season has been mild. The Salt Lake County mayoral race has been fascinating to watch, and the outcome is, by no means, a sure thing. The 2nd Congressional District race has produced some fireworks, but it's mostly been in the form of dueling direct-mail pieces. There's seemingly no shortage of money to pack constituents' mail boxes with fliers containing hot-button words such as "Utah values," "abortion" or "choice." The literature also includes very unflattering photographs of the respective political opponents, which apparently equates "bad-hair" days with their stand on political issues.

Meanwhile, the governor's race has been so polite that the Juniors may trade votes just to be gentlemanly. I mean there's little danger that Norma Matheson or Karen Huntsman will have to wash their respective Junior's mouth with soap for an untoward word uttered on the campaign trail.

Compared to some candidates I've read about in recent days, Utahns seeking election are a pretty good lot. If you think you have no choice on Nov. 2, pity your peers in Kentucky, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Texas.

In Lexington, Ky., one city councilman seeking re-election has displayed an "Elect Jesus" message on his campaign billboard. The sign was intended to promote faith and community involvement, not to link himself to Jesus, the candidate said.

One Republican candidate for Congress in Tennessee said his stand on workers' issues is "so far left I make Karl Marx look like the Christian Coalition." According to campaign literature, the candidate also believes in using genetic selection to "improve biologically the quality of future generations."

An open Senate seat in Oklahoma has attracted a GOP physician once accused of sterilizing a patient against her will. He has drawn headlines for favoring the death penalty for doctors who perform abortions. He faces a Democrat who is a Rhodes Scholar who has earned the top rating of the National Rifle Association. The independent candidate is a former high school counselor who claims that the government implanted a small radio receiver in her head in the 1970s and continues to send transmissions just to annoy her.

In Texas, an episode of mass "streaking" at age 18 has come back to haunt the one Republican running for Congress. His opponent's campaign has charged that the Republican "exposed himself to children and strangers." Considering that some 300 college students were part of the same prank, it's curious how one person can be singled out for his misdeeds.

Admittedly, these are some of the more outrageous candidates for elected office in the United States profiled in a recent article by Scripps Howard News Service. But on the whole, I wouldn't trade our bunch of candidates. I just wish they had the capacity to run livelier campaigns. Does anyone have fire in the belly in Utah?

My favorite candidates profiled by Scripps Howard News Service were a Republican and a Democrat running for city council in Madison, Wis. They're campaigning side by side, knocking on the doors of their city council borough in tandem. Democrat Astri Baillie, who is president of the City Council, and GOP Councilman Donald Bowen say they want to rise above the partisan rancor that they believe has infected American politics. Imagine, having the luxury to confront candidates live and in person on your front porch. No spin job, just an opportunity for a candidate to put his or her best foot forward and the chance to rebut an opponent's positions to his or her face.

As much as I'm tired of the politicking, I hope this type of campaigning catches on. Unlike those nasty mailings (grrrr, I got another one today!), this type of campaigning has definite "curb" appeal.


Marjorie Cortez is a Deseret Morning News editorial writer. E-mail: marjorie@desnews.com.