First-time congressional candidate Liuba Grechen Shirley liked to say she wasn’t a politician. And she wasn’t. The Amityville mother of two ran a strong race against a formidable incumbent, 13-term U.S. Rep. Peter King, a Republican from Seaford.
Grechen Shirley ran such a hopeful, efficient campaign that she actually led in the vote count at one point before King pulled ahead, eventually winning the race with 52 percent of the vote to Grechen Shirley’s 46. It was the closest that anyone had come to defeating King since former Nassau County Legislator Dave Mejias challenged him in 2006.
Despite the closeness of the contest, however, and the intensity of feelings on both sides, the race was noteworthy for the lack of attack ads and negativity that have become the norm in American elections. During the televised debates, for example, King responded sarcastically to a jab from Grechen Shirley by muttering, “You’re a saint. You’re the best.” That was about as bad as it got.
Make no mistake: The two sparred spiritedly on the issues, but the lack of personal attacks was noteworthy.
In races across the country, Democrats were accused of wanting to offer health care to thousands of MS-13 members allegedly making their way toward the border from Central America. And, a number of Republicans charged, the Democrats’ “radical socialist agenda” would result in the doubling and tripling of taxes.
Democrats were hardly more mild-mannered. Republican candidates were accused of being in President Trump’s pocket, despite their actual voting records or previous responsibilities. All some candidates had to do to be linked to the president’s excesses was to register as Republicans.
Mudslinging is as old as politics, and candidates’ records have always been fair game and subject to a certain amount of caricature. But attacks on their records are a far cry from lying about their beliefs, agendas and personal lives.
Nobody wins when politics becomes as polarized as it is now. The result is a deadlock that leaves a host of serious issues unaddressed. King and Grechen Shirley showed that real debate is still possible, and we owe them both a debt of gratitude for that.