Too much public money sloshing in election

I got an email last week from the manager of Timothy Bowles' state Senate campaign in which she complained about his opponent, Heather Somers, posting on Facebook a picture of a dog standing alongside a Bowles' campaign flier, with a turd on top.

"Honestly I have never seen anything like this," the offended manager for the Democrat wrote. "I have never seen a candidate put feces on top of her opponent's mail and post it on Facebook."

I actually thought the picture of the handsome dog, King Henry, was kind of cute, and I couldn't help but imagine the times he has probably similarly left his imprint on the printed version of this column.

The incident does show, though, that the gloves are certainly off in the 18th District. If not exactly flying, the feces has been deployed.

I blame the new level of hardball politics around here on the public financing of campaigns, which has pumped too much money, underwriting professionally managed campaigns, into races for part-time legislative positions.

Am I the only person who thinks it is ludicrous for the public to give two candidates as much as $190,000 combined to compete for a job with a base annual salary of $28,000? The state spends even more if there is a primary.

I am old enough to remember the good old days, when you solicited some contributions from people who liked your politics, maybe a neighbor or co-worker, held a fundraiser, knocked on doors, put up some lawn signs and took to the local media to make your case.

It worked for the many local races for what is supposed to be "citizen legislator" jobs.

Maybe special interest money had a corrupting influence in the past on statewide races, but not so much in the mom-or-pop races way down ballot.

Now we have millions of dollars going to a handful of professional campaign firms that have injected a slick, elbows-out tenor to local campaigns.

We've seen that most obviously in two races around here with the Vinci Group, run by a former Democratic legislator, Geoff Luxenberg, which is representing Bowles in the 18th and Ryan Henowitz in the 20th state Senate District.

The Henowitz campaign this summer filed an absurd elections violation complaint against opponent Paul Formica and then sent out a news release smearing the candidate's daughter.

We didn't see tactics like that before professional campaign management.

The flier that seemed to prompt a bowel movement in Somers' dog was one of a series of sharp attacks by Bowles, this one linking Somers and Donald Trump: "Con Artists We Can't Afford."

The large glossy flier, with unflattering pictures of both candidates, seems to have some glaring inaccuracies.

There is nothing even remotely on the record to back up the claim that Somers "pocketed millions & taxpayers lost millions" from investing in the company where she worked.

For Donald Trump, well, the pocketing and taxpayers losing claim seems to be quite true.

The Bowles flier also seems to run afoul of campaign rules about attacking candidates outside your own race with your state money, in this case a candidate for federal office.

The candidate did indeed sign off on these attack fliers and I suppose he bears responsibility.

Still, I don't see this as the kind of campaign you might expect from a guy who raises alpacas on a family farm in Preston.

Shame on Connecticut for underwriting this stuff.

And kudos to King Henry for his good aim.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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