Negative ads cause primary controversy

By SpencerRoush

With the Illinois primary a day away, more and more political advertisements are being broadcast on radio air waves and during nearly every  TV commercial break. Some candidates use advertisements to try to inspire people to support them so they can change Illinois and renew the economy, while others rely on negative information to smear their opponents.

During this primary election season, many candidates have created negative commercials to make their opponents look incompetent and unworthy of the position.

On Jan. 21, Democrat Dan Hynes, a gubernatorial candidate, released a TV advertisement with the late Mayor Harold Washington speaking poorly of Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in 1987.  This technique is nothing new.

Since the beginning of politics and campaigning in America, mudslinging has been popular among politicians.  From the first president, George Washington, to President Barack Obama, negative tactics have been used, but does it always work to persuade voters?

“Certainly negative campaigning works these days,” said William Bike, vice president of ANB Communications, a political consulting and communications firm. “We’re in a period of American history where the campaigns go negative almost immediately.”

Bike added that effectively using negative advertising is all about position and timing. He said candidates who are lesser-known than their opponent and have less money could use negative advertising to their advantage effectively. He added that a candidate may also be in a good position to mudsling if he/she obtained valuable information against their opponent or if there is a large gap in the polls.

Bike said Hynes was not in the position to release such a negative ad because before the commercial was released, Hynes was trailing Quinn 41- 40. Bike said Hynes has been gaining votes during the campaign with a small gap in the current polls. He added that this advertisement may backfire and actually hurt him in the election.

“I thought it was very, very strange that [Hynes’s campaign] decided to use such a ballistically negative ad, at a time when they were closing the gap anyway,” Bike said. “I think it’s more harmful than good.”

LeAlan Jones, a Green Party candidate running for Senate, said Hynes “resurrected Harold [Washington] for his own political gain,” which he said probably won’t work.

“What this gave Quinn the opportunity to do was to really reinforce his support in the black community because a lot of black political leaders came out for Quinn and said this ad was a horrible thing,” Bike said.

According to Bike, there are other problems with the negative advertisement, including the Hynes family’s past history with Washington. Hynes’s father, Tom Hynes, ran against Washington for mayor.

“What you have here is a member of the same family, who tried to oust Harold Washington back in ’87, now using Harold Washington to try to make political points in his own campaign,” Bike said. “People have long memories around here and if they don’t, there are enough people around to remind them. ”

Bike said this is an example of a negative advertisement that crosses the line and becomes ineffective.

Adam Andrzejewski, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, said before a November debate that he doesn’t think personal attack on candidates is appropriate, but attacks on their policy is fair game.

“Unless Republicans vet their own candidates, we’ll leave it to the Democrats to vet our candidates in the general elections, and this has been the problem,” Andrzejewski said.

Jones also said he won’t use negative advertisements in his campaign.

According to Bike, the most effective commercial he has seen this year is a positive one. Releasing uplifting and reassuring advertisements this year has been a strategy of some candidates.

Jones said positive advertisements will probably resonate more with the voters this year than negative ones because of the state of the economy.

“When there are so many serious issues on the table, [voters] want to hear a serious dialogue, not buffoonery,” Jones said.