After an election, most winners and losers are either celebrating or on to the next race. I was just glad it was over. I had lost in a suburban local Senate race that saw me spectacularly dragged through the mud in a one-sided negative-ad spending spree that would put Imelda Marcos to shame.
I didn’t commiserate with friends or even respond to most of my well-wishers afterward. Instead, I shut down my social media and set off to reclaim my maiden name, and hopefully, my identity.
The campaign was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience, mostly because I would never do it again.
I’ve spent most of my career in the public sector having professional and social relationships with people who would now seek to turn me into a Disney-style villain. People who told me how much they respected that I played it down the middle. People I considered my friends. I guess in retrospect those relationships were purely transactional, at least on their side.
They would later use their dark money to take unflattering photos of me and splash them on every television station and social media site, buying up ad space far outside my district. They topped it off with mailers arriving daily at my home addressed to my children.
At some point for them, it became less about winning and more about destroying me. As one GOP pundit put it two days after the election, the insiders on the Republican side all knew the race wasn’t winnable and “pulled up stakes” in September.
Even after my own party set me adrift, that wasn’t enough for the Democrats. They went on to spend $2 million to brand me as a terrible person.
After hiring the best private investigator money can buy, they didn’t really have much, so they had to get busy making up controversy to fill up ad space.
First, one of their political operatives filed a complaint about my personal financial disclosures. I was one of a few candidates who disclosed my tax returns, but they would complain this was the wrong form. And they knew their made-up newspapers and at least one reporter would play along.
So, I filled out the new form where they would finally get to see — gasp — my children’s minimum-wage jobs and student-loan interest rates. Hardly Mar-a-Lago, but you wouldn’t know if from the ads.
The whole exercise proved useful for them. Our hyper-partisan secretary of state would play along and take time from a busy schedule of promoting herself on TV to have her political appointee deny her own staff’s attempt to dismiss the complaint. After all, it takes a village, and this would keep the complaint alive, which could keep the ads alive.
As a bonus, Democrats now knew where my children worked so they could send someone to confront my teenage daughter about her awful mother.
Next, they would put up a particularly distasteful commercial about how I opposed background checks on guns, declaring that my position would no doubt result in lost lives.
The problem (for me, not them) was that I never said I opposed background checks. In fact, I said the opposite. But it didn’t matter because they knew I had been launched into open water by my own party and there was no way I could defend myself. All I could do was go door-to-door and I would run out of time before I could reach enough voters to combat their money.
Meanwhile, nobody knew anything about my opponent. He was as one reporter described it, “an afterthought” in the whole charade. There wasn’t much spent to promote his motto to “be kind and help others.” Maybe that was just too much hypocrisy, even for the Democrats.
From this point forward, every time the Democrats complain about the lack of resources for essential services, I’ll be thinking about that $2 million.
Suzanne Taheri is an attorney and a former candidate for Senate District 27 in Centennial (running as Suzanne Staiert).
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