‘Tis the season for candidates to challenge each other to run clean campaigns.
Rep. Scott Rigell (R), arguably the only incumbent lawmaker in Virginia likely to face a competitive re-election race, called Monday for
his Democratic opponent, financier Paul Hirschbiel, to join him in espousing a strictly positive message.
In a letter to Hirschbiel, Rigell proposed: “We will not question the other’s character, compassion or ethics. We will not engage in negative campaigning or run ads that mention the other candidate, but rather focus instead on highlighting our respective sets of solutions for America.”
And Rigell said the two candidates in the Virginia Beach-based 2nd district should “publicly state our desire for this kind of positive campaign to be reflected in all campaign advertising, including advertising ran by outside groups.”
Hirschbiel soon responded with a letter of his own, focused on the latter point.
“We will have an honest campaign focused on the issues and facts,” Hirschbiel proposed. “We should ensure that shady outside groups who do not publicly disclose their donors do not run television, radio or web advertisements.
“We will agree that if any outside group, that refuses to publicly disclose their donors, advertises on a candidate’s behalf that one-half the cost of that advertising buy will be donated out of the campaign’s account to a charity of the opponent’s choice.”
Hirschbiel’s counter-proposal resembles the deal that has been struck in Massachusetts between Sen. Scott Brown (R) and his challenger, Elizabeth Warren (D) on outside spending. Candidates in some other races — including Virginia Senate candidates George Allen (R) and Timothy M. Kaine (D) — have sparred over similar pledges without actually agreeing.
Hirschbiel’s response itself drew a response, as Rigell campaign spokesman Jason Miyares accused the Democrat of “ignoring Scott Rigell’s challenge to run a clean, civil campaign for this fall’s election.”
It’s not clear whether Hirschbiel and Rigell will come to any understanding, given the stakes. A ban on negative campaigning would presumably hurt Hirschbiel, since it would be difficult to unseat an incumbent without criticizing his record. And a ban on outside spending by so-called Super PACs could hurt Rigell, since Republican candidates nationally have benefited more from sunch funds than Democrats have.