By Grace Brown, Opinion Contributor (Photo by Patrick Healy)
This past weekend, registered Democrat Buffalo residents were bombarded with political communications, via postal and digital means. Given the commencement of early voting on Saturday, Oct. 23, this final haul of campaign advertising is hardly surprising. The unprecedented low demonstrated by Lynne Dixon’s campaign in the impersonation of opposing candidate Kevin Hardwick, however, was shocking.
Dixon is running on the Republican platform for the office of comptroller, a county-wide office responsible for auditing operational expenditures of the county. She led a career in journalism for 22 years before embarking on a political journey. Conversely, Hardwick has been continuously practicing politics since his youth, beginning work on campaigns as only a teenager.
In fact, the majority of Hardwick’s political experience is under the Republican Party. In a controversial twist, he converted in 2018 to the Democrats to pass a budget deal and because of a shift in GOP ideology due to Donald Trump. Remaining faithful to his centrist views, Hardwick presents a promising compromise for the comparatively conservative opinions of Western New York Democrats.
However, his chances of acting on this perfect pairing were largely impinged by the past weekend's events. After months of civil campaigning in which both candidates remained respectful, the sudden mudslinging of Dixon’s latest move is completely uncalled for and unethical.
Though the mimed mailings were technically legal — since a very small disclaimer read “Paid for by the Friends of Lynne Dixon” — this attempt to throw Hardwick’s political past back in his face is amoral. The ads clearly resemble those of his own campaign, making it evident the “Friends of Lynne Dixon” were attempting to fool voters into believing this communication came directly from the comptroller candidate himself. Hardwick is accused of retaining stereotypical conservative attitudes, such as an alleged commitment to “law and order,” “America First” and “anti-gay marriage” sentiments, along with an included photo with former President Trump.
Though admittedly unoffensive or even attractive to some Republican voters, communications of this type entirely destroyed Hardwick’s image in the eyes of his primarily Democratic voter base. In all his numerous years of political experience, he admitted it was the worst thing to ever happen to him, and he believes the road is unfairly steep now. Some political analysts posit that the effects of such texts, emails and physical paper pamphlets may not be so detrimental, but that seems rooted in false optimism.
Voters have already responded angrily to Hardwick, calling with complaints as early as Friday afternoon. Numerous would-be supporters took the false mailings as legitimate promotions of his own platform and issued verbal attacks, feeling their beliefs had been betrayed right before the election. The campaign teams of both candidates seem to agree that this “trick,” as Hardwick phrased it, of Dixon’s will severely injure Hardwick’s chances at fair competition, though he should be provided with such in a free and fair American election.
Despite this seemingly devastating outcome of her campaign’s heartless commercial trick, Dixon refuses to express any sort of apology. "It’s who he has always been,” Dixon told The Buffalo News. “The comptroller’s office is no place for someone who is an opportunist or a self dealer," she argued, a seemingly ironic statement to come from a candidate guilty of suffocating the political aspirations of her peaceable opponent during the hour of his unsuspecting rest.
Dixon’s campaign manager Chris Grant likewise rejected any notion of remorse in an interview with The Griffin, deeming the stealthy mudslinging tactic a “clever and creative” means to reveal “the truth of Hardwick’s flip-flopping” to voters. The campaign manager denied any malfeasance in the attempts of the “Friends of Lynne Dixon” to impersonate Hardwick and misinform voters. He even went so far as to declare the evident photoshop performed upon pictures in the mailing as irrelevant to the false representation of Hardwick’s history.
Yet Hardwick rebukes this, arguing that government officials should change their views frequently to adapt to the variable political and social climate in which we live. “You evolve over time, you change, you grow through experience,” he told The Griffin. “Part of the problem in government is that people refuse to change their mind.”
In truth, Hardwick’s past affiliations in the political world should bear no consequence on the current mindset of Democratic voters. Most of his supporters are aware of his previous connections with the Republican party, and they pay no mind to this fact given his contemporary stances.
Hardwick stands upon a strong platform of Democratic values, such as responsible recycling and environmental conservation, ensuring daycare access and affordability, as well as support for healthcare professionals in the fight against COVID-19. Regardless of relationships long passed under the bridge of business, Kevin Hardwick presents a promising model of an official accepting of change within the political and social spheres.
Meanwhile, with her latest trick, Dixon embodies the unbudging and begrudging stances often associated with the traditional views of the GOP. Rather than returning the respect awarded to her by Hardwick, she staunchly sought to undermine his progressive mindset by parading old photos and policy issues before Hardwick’s newest support base. Unlike her opponent, she obviously knows not how to move on and gather indications from the present as to how plans for the future should be drawn up.