It’s not often you hear about big-league dirty tricks in a city council election, but most cities aren’t Longmont, Colorado.
Two years ago, a big fight in Longmont over the proposed annexation of a commercial development by LifeBridge Christian Church to the city created lasting division. Opponents contended that the annexation was a bad deal for the city, requiring city services to be connected to a commercial development that sought to shield itself from many taxes as a religious organization. The annexation failed, but the emnity the fight caused has persisted.
Fast-forward to today, the Longmont Times-Call reports:
Longmont City Councilwoman Karen Benker says she’s the target of secret groups that are playing dirty politics.
Benker, who is running for re-election for the Ward 2 council seat, filed three complaints with the City Clerk’s Office on Monday, one of which was about a Sept. 23 telephone poll.
In her complaint, Benker said the “push poll” was biased against her and brought up policy positions that were untrue.
But the groups that did the poll – Western Tradition Partnership and the Longmont Leadership Committee – say the poll was legitimate (not a push poll) and that polling voters doesn’t fall under the city’s campaign finance laws, so they haven’t violated any regulations.
“Push polls” are phone calls that are dishonestly presented as public-opinion surveys but really are meant to sway voters…
We were forwarded some of the ‘questions’ being asked in this ‘legitimate’ poll, reportedly conducted from somewhere in Virginia:
“If you knew that Karen Benker discriminated against a Christian church, costing the city of Longmont millions of dollars in lost tax revenue, would you be more or less likely to vote for her?”
“If you knew that Karen Benker supported welfare for illegal aliens, would you be more or less likely to vote for her?”
At least they left child molesters and ACORN out, right?
Adding to the mystery over these calls is Benker’s opponent, Katie Witt. Witt, an unsuccessful candidate for the state Senate in 2008, has connections to the Golden-based Independence Institute, was the Statewide Field Coordinator for “Coloradans for Marriage” in 2006, as well as the State Director for presidential candidate Mitt Romney last year. She is frequently mentioned by Republicans as a possible star candidate for higher office–but she needs to get elected to something first. There’s also a relatively obscure telecom ballot issue in Longmont, 2C, that has drawn in oddly big players like Americans for Prosperity–usually an indicator of a proxy campaign meant to impact related candidates.
And don’t miss this wonderfully tasteless little blog that popped up recently, with the banner art featuring Braveheart chopping off Karen Benker’s head. Stay classy, locals.
Bottom line: we’ve talked a few times about the strategy by Republicans to groom their next generation of candidates in “nonpartisan” local elections. Witt certainly fits that profile, and the disproportionate hardball resources being brought to bear on her behalf…fit the profile too.