EDITOR'S COLUMN: Perusing this year's political junk mail

There are few things a political junkie enjoys more than political junk mail. It restores one’s faith in the system, because from it we learn that all our candidates are warm, loving people, deeply concerned about the environment, the sick and the elderly, and committed to giving criminals their just desserts. It’s an idyllic world in which any problem can be dealt with just by showing the candidate cares. No actual ideas required.

Junk political mail received early in the campaign is particularly sweet natured. The idea is to implant the notion in people’s minds that Candidate X is a nice, caring person. That goes on for several weeks, until polls show Candidate X is trailing, in which case attention is turned to the candidate’s opponent. Then the campaign turns negative, but right now we’re in the idyllic season when few mention their opponent.

I’ve been getting early junk mail because our household consists of two absentee voters, both of whom are at college. But candidates don’t know that, so they keep sending the stuff. I also get the kids’ absentee ballots, meaning I could vote three times this election if I weren’t afraid of being caught by the county auditor.

You can tell who has the most money by who sends out the most mail. Rick Larsen, our incumbent Congressman, is no relation to me, a fact which gets him a lot of votes in Island County. He’s loaded, judging by his junk mail. Fishing through the garbage I found three colorful multi-page flyers, all dealing with health care issues. Generally, he stands there looking concerned as an elderly women eyeballs a prescription bottle and clutches her chest in shock. Either someone put Viagra in their diuretic bottle, or the costs are too high. The Congressman, of course, is working to fix this problem. One oddity I noted is that in two different flyers he’s talking to the same elderly woman. She’s wearing the same outfit, while he wears the same shirt but a different jacket. Who but a politician would take a spare jacket to a drugstore?

Larsen’s opponent, Norma Smith, has only sent one flyer to my house, which probably means she’s hurting for money. Having less money, she has to tackle several issues per flyer. She shows her house, family and friends, and is pictured talking to a mechanic and people in a hospital. The thing I like about Smith’s flyers is that I know a lot of the people pictured: Gordy Simmons at Simmons Garage, Jack Metcalf standing by the ferry, and Patti Sargent drinking coffee, for example.

Larsen also finds room on his flyers to picture his family. They all do. To win an election, you have to show your reproductive organs are in good working order and have been used as God intended. Show me an umarried candidate and I’ll show you a loser. Eron Berg only has a wife, which I fear puts him at a disadvantage. His opponent, Barbara Bailey, shows off her grandchildren in her flyer, which is a particularly adept political move. Can Berg overcome the offspring deficit? Maybe Rick Larsen will lend him some of his kids, since they’re both Democrats.

In other junk mail I like, Greg Banks literally wraps himself in the Constitution, which is a nice variation on the flag theme. Family photo included, of course. Bill Berg sticks with the traditional red, white and blue ink, includes a picture of his friendly-looking wife, and hits the trifecta by mentioning his four children and five grandchildren. The minimalist prize goes to Sharon Franzen who sent out simple green postcards, each one autographed by herself.

So far we’ve had a pleasant junk mail election. But I can’t help but look forward to those hit pieces that will arrive the first three days of November. Would anyone dare go so low as to mention that Eron Berg has no children?

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