By editorial board • 

Attack ads here tend to backfire

Political attacks often work. Otherwise, campaigns wouldn’t launch them. But Yamhill County has a record of rejecting such smears.

Today, we have another case study. 

A few weeks ago, a website was created to detail the criminal record of commissioner candidate Barbara Boyer, mostly from the early to mid-90s, when she was in her 20s. It includes writing a bad check, marijuana use, getting arrested at a protest and driving under the influence. And she was cited for DUII again in 2013. 

All of that information was reported, then was further pushed on voters in a mailer distributed this week throughout Yamhill County.

The names associated with both the website and mailer are longtime Oregon GOP operatives, including former state legislators. They all have ties to Boyer’s opponent, Lindsay Berschauer, who makes her living as a political consultant for Republican candidates and causes on a statewide level.

In the past, such political moves have backfired.

In 2002, incumbent Tom Bunn’s campaign paid for last-minute attack mailers and radio ads characterized as “shameful” by this editorial board.

“What is he thinking?” we wrote. “The attack ads have embarrassed his friends and elated his adversaries, who see prospects of people voting against him instead of for his opponent.”

Mary Stern went on to oust him.

In 2016, during the race in House District 24, Oregon’s Democratic Party ran an eleventh-hour smear campaign against Ron Noble, on behalf of candidate Ken Moore. It distorted and misrepresented an incident during Noble’s tenure as head of security at Linfield College, and Moore refused to distance himself from it.

We wrote, “This is the ugliest local example of dirty politics in our memory, which goes back a long time.” Noble won the race handily.

In 2018, McMinnville City Council candidate Sal Peralta was targeted with a last-minute robocall attack in his campaign to fend off conservative challenger Chris Chenoweth.

Suspicion fell on two relatives of County Commissioner Mary Starrett, husband Ron Fennern of the politically active RAF Enterprises, and brother Kevin Starrett of the politically active Oregon Firearms Federation. However, all parties associated with the Chenoweth camp denied involvement.

Peralta sailed to victory. 

There’s no hard data on the effect smear tactics had on the outcomes. But opinions from the community led us to believe the last-minute low-blows hurt more than they helped. Voters here don’t seem to welcome big-city political consultants swooping in to tar the opposition. 

How will the ads attacking Boyer resonate with voters? We will see.

However, with David Wall also in the race — he received 15% of the vote last time he ran — there’s a good chance the race will be extended to November. That would make the current smear tactics a lingering issue.


Bill B

I think most would agree that the mailer was not appropriate. That said, it does not meet the definition of a "smear tactic". At least from what I read, the mailer was factual and contains no falsehoods. Did I miss something?


I am personally not a fan of the mailer and I personally did not like the actual smear campaign done by Ken Moore. The information about Sal intrigued me back then and now with the latest trick to get DEQ here in a back handed way I am now digging undeclared conflicts of interest which ironically the data brought to light during that campaign may be happening now.

The mailer is accurate though and I have questions that her campaign won't answer. What has she done to redeem herself? What actions has Barbara taken to reform and give back to the community? Has she mentored alcoholics? Has she started a local DUII group and helped get people back on track?

I have found that instead of bringing this issue to light, the arrest, the DUII, the jail time and the probation was kept quiet while she was holding very important positions representing the county and this is the most concerning of all of them. Why was this data hidden from the public and if she really took responsiblity why would she take money from wineries who push alcohol on others, when she has a history with this?

More importantly, she should've done the responsible thing and stepped down but instead she ran a campaign and withheld this. That's the biggest concern of all.

Food for thought.

Ossie Bladine

Bill B, You're right, that was an incorrect word choice in that last sentence; an oversight I'll take responsibility for here. We certainly did not intend to suggest the mailer was full of falsehoods. The DUII arrest was labeled in the piece as 2015, but it was actually 2013. Pretty minor inaccuracy, though.


My biggest concern in this whole political battle is how far the liberals will go to discredit a conservative candidate. It’s all about power from the left and just like the liberals in Washington DC it looks like the liberal left will back a candidate from there side with a questionable background. Ethics and morals have left this country at a high rate of speed.

Christmas has Talons

The NR labeled the mailer an attack ad to create sympathy for their chosen candidate. Of course that is totally biased and unethical but that has never stopped them before.The thing that transitioned the NR endorsing someone with such a horrible record to possibly a National story is that a former Sheriff did as well. I've gotten some great responses on twitter and on talk radio about this.

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