Kudos to Dwight Worden and Terry Gaasterland for running City Council campaigns observing both the letter and the spirit of the city Code of Ethics. They both demonstrated how to focus on issues even though not always in agreement—avoiding falsehoods and personal attacks. Their campaigns were based on what each believes to be in the best interests of our community. A majority of voters agreed and they were both re-elected. We trust that they will work to achieve consensus on how Del Mar can best approach many challenges to our quality of life.
Unfortunately, the Stephen Quirk campaign fell far short of civic discourse and ethical standards, despite his pledge to abide by the Code of Ethics. It was quite apparent early on that both of the Quirk twins had decided to wage an attack campaign against Worden as the most likely way to get both of them on the Council. It was disconcerting to see our small community barraged with ugly messages that looked like they came out the right wing, Trumpian playbook we saw at the national level: outright lies, distortions, and personal attacks. An anonymous newsletter worked as a surrogate to suggest a veneer of objectivity.
They missed a strategy that would have given them a better chance of getting their double Quirk goal. If they had been civil to both Terry and Dwight, they had a good chance of harvesting many of the second votes of both, which added to their own first votes would likely have pushed Steve into the lead. Instead, by attacking Dwight they drove most of his second votes to Terry and some of her second votes to Dwight.
Some say that a smear campaign is “just politics,” but there are serious consequences to dirty campaign methods, especially in a small community like ours. This kind of damage to our body politic intensifies polarization among neighbors, promotes distrust of our government entities, and discourages talented people from running for office if unfair attacks are likely. Our community deserves better.