Dirty politics stains the electoral process


It is difficult these days to know when one ought to stand up for the integrity of someone. After all, many of us have lived through the public downfall of leader after leader who claimed to be on the side of integrity, principles, and virtue. Unfortunately, it seems that their failures have caused us to become cynical of our “public servants.”

But something about this attitude really disturbs me. Have we become so jaded by the barrage of negative press that we do not believe that there are leaders in our midst who are sacrificial and principled? Do we truly believe that there are not those among us in whom we can entrust that which is most dear, that which is sacred, and they will not violate it?

These were the thoughts racing through my mind after receiving a series of smear campaign mailers about incumbent state Senator Marty Harbin. These mailers categorized him as being a “creature of the swamp” who acts as if he is “above the law,” insinuating that he was just another politician that is only looking out for himself.

To the contrary, Marty Harbin strikes me as a genuine, civil servant. This becomes clear when you see him interacting with others — a quiet humility emanates from him which indicates that he’s not about getting anything from you or gaining political influence and connections. He does not seem to regard some people as more important and “in-the-know,” and dismisses others. From “the least of the these” to the “most esteemed” from friends to political opponents, I have only observed him treat people with equal respect. He is a statesman in the very best sense of the word.

But these are the very sentiments being undermined by the mailers that are being funded and distributed by the Political Action Committee (PAC), Georgia Coalition for Job Creation. I find it interesting that they are not impugning the state senator for his legislative record.

Rather, they are attempting to destroy his character, which begs the question, why are they waging such a negative campaign? It would be fair to assume that this PAC believes Marty Harbin somehow hinders the interests of their donors.

To be fair, I do believe most of the actual members of the donating organizations would be appalled if they knew what this PAC was doing. Ironically, it is the behavior of a small group of individuals who epitomizes what “the swamp” looks like when they decide to deliberately lie and impugn an honorable man. Their actions typify the worst in our political discourse and make it so difficult for decent people — those who truly have the heart to serve — to run for public office.

Unfortunately, the reason such negative campaigns are used is because they work. Cynical tendencies aside, citizens must become wise and recognize that specious mailers are often political manipulations to get votes or prevent turnout.

So, with a PAC and influential people intent on unseating an honorable public servant like Marty Harbin, I feel it is my duty to lend my voice in standing for what is right. One can choose to not vote for him because they disagree with his legislative record, but they would be sadly mistaken if they assume that he is simply another “dirty” politician.

Marty Harbin makes it very clear that he stands, first and foremost, as a representative of the people of District 16, which includes Fayette, Lamar, Spaulding, and Pike counties.

This is not to say that big businesses are inherently bad for the people of District 16. To the contrary, these organizations and the citizens of District 16 often share similar interests. However, sometimes it is very tempting to allow these organizations within the Metro Atlanta area to drive legislative policies in the name of “economic growth and progress” and to drown out the voices and interests of individuals, families, and businesses within one’s actual district.

Having the wisdom, vision, and grace to remain focused on the citizenry one is elected to represent and not the “well financed” is difficult and can be politically dangerous. But isn’t this the political courage we say we want in our public servants?

[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville with her husband and their five children.]