After a quiet summer and a clean campaign, things took a dramatic turn Wednesday.
Watertown mayoral candidate Jeffrey M. Smith appeared on WTNY/790-AM with morning host Alan Walts. Mr. Smith responded to questions about his campaign proposals as well as measures he supported when he served on the City Council.
Mr. Walts toward the end of the interview asked him to summarize why people should vote for him rather than either of his mayoral opponents, Allison I. Crossman or Councilman Cody J. Horbacz. While contrasting their differing positions, Mr. Smith relied on a worn-out, sexist cliché to demean his opponent.
“With all due respect, this is not a beauty contest,” Mr. Smith said, condescendingly referring to Mrs. Crossman.
Sorry, but there’s absolutely nothing respectful about such a bigoted comment. Would Mr. Smith ever feel comfortable saying this about a male rival? If not, does he believe that only women deserve to be marginalized for their appearance?
Mr. Smith contrasted his campaign platform with those of both Mrs. Crossman and Mr. Horbacz, and this is appropriate. Many of his positions differ substantially from the ones espoused by his competitors, and voters need to know where each candidate stands on the issues that matter most to them.
However, drudging up a chauvinistic stereotype about successful women is out of bounds.
If Mr. Smith has legitimate concerns over some of Mrs. Crossman’s declared positions, he doesn’t need to indulge in sexism. This undercuts the notion that he will be an effective community leader.
With less than a month to go before the general election, perhaps Mr. Smith is worried about Mrs. Crossman’s popularity. And he has good reason to look over his shoulder. Mrs. Crossman has raised significantly more money than he has in this race, according to information from the state Board of Elections.
Her fundraising efforts have so far netted $24,030. Mr. Smith has brought in $5,863, and Mr. Horbacz has raised $3,088.
It’s true that fundraising numbers don’t necessarily indicate who’s ahead in a particular campaign. But they demonstrate that a candidate’s message is resonating with voters, and Mrs. Crossman’s positions have struck a chord with many individuals.
It’s also true that Mrs. Crossman has contributed $4,500 to her campaign while her husband, Joseph, contributed $5,150. Their combined donations are $9,650.
But subtracting this number from Mrs. Crossman’s fundraising total of $24,030 leaves $14,380, more than twice what Mr. Smith has raised. There is obviously much more substance to her candidacy than the “beauty contest” narrative that her opponent has falsely conjured.
Campaigns should run on issues, and Mr. Smith is intelligent enough to know that. He can’t lose control when he’s under pressure.
How will he address Councilwoman Lisa A. Ruggiero when she pushes back against one of his proposals? By expressing himself in this way, he’s showing bias, sexism and that he’s out of touch on gender equality.
This race deserves better. Let’s get back to a respectful dialog on the issues. Just because disrespectful behavior is all over Washington, D.C., it doesn’t have to come to Watertown.