Local elections no place for smear campaigns
First, I want to make it clear, I've exchanged several messages online with Tracy Middleton, register of deeds-elect; she is a class act. We started to exchange a few messages Aug. 9 morning, the day of the election. Everyone that said kind things about Tracy during her campaign is 100 percent correct on her qualifications and character.
I wish her well in the office she most fairly won, campaigning on her skills and experience.
Our opponent, Kara Schmidt; however, with her partner Graham Garfield have to be called out for their actions during the campaign.
Schmidt's one piece of campaign literature was mostly an attack piece referring to older candidates as wanting a position without responsibility and looking to "live a semi-retired lifestyle." At 49, I'm not looking to semi-retire anytime soon. I stated numerous times this would have been a career change.
On Aug. 6, the Duluth News Tribune published a letter by Garfield about how opponents were attacking Schmidt. Garfield does disclose that he is the District 6 City Council representative, but he doesn't disclose his relationship with Schmidt. Additional messages online from Garfield say opponents spread rumors, twisted her message and questioned her experience and capability. No examples of any of these attacks are given. The most laughable comment was being referred to as a status quo bureaucrat. For the last 28 years, I've always been one of those who signed the front of the checks. I'm not sure how a self-employed businessperson can be referred to as a status quo bureaucrat?
Imagine my surprise Aug. 9, when I arrived at the Belknap Lounge, the location of my public, Facebook published, campaign night event, only to find Schmidt's campaign literature distributed on nearly all the tables. Schmidt stated that it was "some of her campaign workers" doing a little GOTV (get out the vote) during happy hour at some bars. She also stated she did not know that was my location for the evening. With the polls closing in less than two hours, was this really necessary? Reviewing video feeds, two men enter at just before 6:14 p.m. We don't have any DNA evidence but one appears to be Garfield. Without asking any staff — something that should be done when distributing anything in a private business — they engage a few customers and distribute literature on each empty table. They leave about 1 minute, 50 seconds later.
Other comments made online include our hypocrisy toward young people, probable sexism and misogyny. I have never had a problem with young adults, women or anyone involved at all levels of business, government and community service. I've always felt it is important to look at the individual and not put a label on anyone. Anyone that knows my range of friends, from all walks of life, could figure that out.
Schmidt and Garfield shouldn't expect us "older" adults to roll over and play dead for you. We have the right to work, pursue goals and campaign for public office. My message on all my social media posts, website and campaign literature was about my own skills, abilities and interests. This is something "older" adults do when campaigning. We talk about our experience and abilities. It's easy to talk about ethical leadership but much harder to live it, apparently.
I hope that sets the record straight, and in the future, local candidates remember just because national and state elections resort to this kind of conduct, we all have to live, work and play in our communities around Douglas County. There is no place for this kind of conduct in local elections.
Editor's note: Jon Winter, owner of Winter Systems Computers, was a candidate running for register of deeds.