Jack Ohman

In California Senate race, Vidak, Perez, and the realtors go to the dogs...

The National Lampoon magazine once ran an ad saying something like, "If you don't buy this magazine, we'll shoot this dog." It was a shocking joke at the time, but little did I realize it would later be the prototype of a a California campaign flier.

In California's Senate District 16, there is, shall we say, a competitive race between Republican Andy Vidak and Democrat Leticia Perez. Vidak got about $161,500 from the California realtors group, a group of folks in my personal experience who have been the model of charm and diplomacy. Neatly attired and always cordial, every realtor I have ever met has been about the nicest person you can imagine. In California, the realtors have put out a flier (we used to call it "literature," you know, to be more like Proust or Hemingway, I suppose) that showed Perez's face juxtaposed next to a tortured dog, whose owner Perez defended as an attorney.

Not one of the realtors I have ever worked with have ever put a tortured dog on my house fliers. 

"2700 SF charmer, 4BR, 2.5 BA, owner does not torture dogs."

Growing up observing and working in politics in Minnesota, I would say a really nasty, negative campaign tactic might involve pointing out that your opponent was a Republican, and that your candidate was in the same party as Hubert Humphrey. That typically worked. Sometimes, if it got really ugly, you also added that your candidate was from the same party as Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. Believe it or not, bringing up FDR still worked pretty well in 1978. If you really wanted to destroy a candidate, however, you could reveal that they were secretly kind of Unitarian rather than Lutheran. No dogs were mentioned.

Along with Minnesota, Oregon was another comically clean campaign state, free of derogatory doggy doggerel, until about 15 years ago. That's because there was a kind of unofficial centrist political alliance led by the late Sen. Mark Hatfield, a Republican, and former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt. In fact, this group shared so many goals that for while, it seemed rather pointless to vote (yes, I did) in some races , as the distinctions between the parties seemed so microscopic. Democratic aides and Republican aides regularly shuttled through these moderate corridors interchangeably between officeholders of opposing parties. It was really kind of pleasant, in a strange way. It was like trying to tell the difference between a Welsh Terrier and an Airedale: one was bigger than the other, but, you know, not much contrast.

Coming to California, a massively larger stage and/or kennel, I am aware that it's a more competitive and therefore sometimes negative environment. But putting a tortured dog on a flier seems, uh, a bit much. It may lead to stronger future campaign fliers involving even cuter mammals.


The answer may be no, but you can put it out there.

Perhaps they could put out a television ad as well: "I've lived in the 16th District for years. I've gotten to know many of you and your dogs. I promise you that I will never torture your dog or that of your neighbors, unlike some people, who probably own cats. VIDAK FOR STATE SENATE. NO DOGS WERE TORTURED IN THE MAKING OF THIS COMMERCIAL. I'm Andy Vidak, and I don't approve of dog torturing."

Dogs have traditionally been an odd part of American political discourse. FDR once famously said he knew the GOP was desperate when they attacked his little dog Fala, RFK chided Gene McCarthy for attacking his dog Freckles, and Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Corgi) has been known to employ a cute dog from time to time.

Politics is a dog-eat-dog business.

The realtors are demonstrating it.