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May 09 2017

Op-Ed: Church Says Negative Smear Campaigns Have No Place On Sullivan’s Island

By Sarah Church for Island Eye News

Sarah Church

The only reason I ever ran for election on Town Council was to serve our community. I have no single agenda. I want to ensure the actions taken by Council keep Sullivan’s Island on a path that is thoughtful, responsible, and reasonable. Yet I became the target of anonymous attack ads in the Island Eye News filled with falsehoods. I was the victim of yard signs with misleading rhetorical questions and vague statements of non-truths.

It is easy to complain about LOSI1888. Anonymous, mean, purveyors of fake news with a high budget and no accountability. There will always be someone willing to fund a smear-campaign to uproot an incumbent from Council in hopes of getting someone new elected that is more in line with their agenda. On election day, as residents approached us at the candidate’s tent, it was clear that the anonymous LOSI group had succeeded in causing confusion, division, and distraction. If negative campaigning worked this time, we can expect more during our next election in two years. It will escalate from both sides of whatever issue we are fighting over. We will become a fractured, divided community. Is this really what we want?

We ask a lot of our members of Town Council. There are long hours with no pay, and the expectation to be available to any resident who feels concern over the actions of Council. Those willing to serve on Council do so out of love for our community.

We want to give back. If negative campaigning continues to perpetuate, I fear good candidates will not step up for fear of the potential onslaught of attack.

Negative smear-campaigns have no place in a small town like ours. It is our responsibility to end them. It falls on every resident of Sullivan’s Island to question the source of negative attacks and to find out the truth about the issues raised. Those being attacked welcome the chance to clear up the confusion.

Members of Town Council must work together. Because elected candidates will serve on Council with two other candidates, we campaign “with” those candidates, not against them. This election brought us the singling out of two incumbent candidates. We may never know if the other candidates were involved with the LOSI group.

Had they stepped up and publicly denounced the negative attacks, it would have helped retain the sanctity of our democratic process. This was truly a missed opportunity. As voters, we can demand better of our candidates.

I hope that you will join me in a call for civility. For the future of Sullivan’s Island, let’s uphold the democratic process in a thoughtful, respectful way that we can be proud of.

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