Let's stick to issues

The problem with mud-slinging is that it's hard to accurately direct the trajectory of mud and equally hard to get it off your hands after you throw it. Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith's campaign and staff members are discovering that themselves.

Smith's own state director was recently targeted by the Jeff Merkley campaign over the now-infamous Furniture-gate, finding himself accused of supporting the very project that Smith has taken Merkley to task over.

Merkley, the Democratic challenger to Smith in November's election, has been lambasted in a series of television ads over his support for a capital renovation project — in particular the purchase of expensive new furniture — while he was speaker of the House. In the midst of an economic downturn, an unpopular war, failing health-care system and numerous other issues, the furniture ad is a red herring that has drawn attention away from what should be the topics of the campaign.

Last week Merkley's campaign released information that Smith's state director, Kerry Tymchuk, had endorsed the project while he was serving on a commission that had reviewed the work.

Tymchuk says that's not true, that his endorsement was for a much broader report on the overall renovation of the state Capitol. Hasso Herring, editor of the Albany Democrat-Herald, served on the panel with Tymchuk and agrees with his assertion (see accompanying article).

Tymchuk says his reputation has been besmirched by the allegations. Smith has come in for a gotcha attack as well over his own votes for a U.S. Capitol Visitors Center, whose current price tag of $625 million is $400 million over budget. Is that fair? No — as with the Oregon project, the U.S. Capitol work was supported on both sides of the political aisle.

Smith, Merkley, the congressional seat they are battling over and Oregon voters can join Tymchuk in feeling besmirched. The mud has spattered everyone involved and will prove hard to wash off. We can only hope the candidates will stick to real issues going forward, but we have little confidence in that happening.

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