Welcome to Saturday, a day when mail-in ballots for the March 5th Primary Election are starting to arrive and when some local campaigns have gone toxic.
Few Pasadena residents are looking forward to getting splashed by either the upcoming rainstorm or negative campaign muck, but sometimes both are difficult to avoid. Especially when letter carriers helpfully drop the latest political sludge at the front door along with your ballot.
For this week in mudslinging and distortions, we feature the campaign mailers of Chris Holden and Felicia Williams. Holden is striving for a new job after being termed-out of his current Sacramento position, and Williams is an incumbent trying to hang onto her existing Pasadena City Council gig.
For his campaign offering, Holden gets out the MAGA stick and thwacks District 5 Supervisor Kathryn Barger with it, hard.
We’re not entirely sure how voting for him will “Stop Donald Trump’s MAGA Agenda” from being executed, but it’s certainly swinging for the fence to directly compare Barger and Trump.
Local News Pasadena recently asked Holden what he wanted voters to know about his campaign, and he never once mentioned stopping the MAGA Agenda on the Board of Supervisors.
It must have slipped his mind.
Williams, for her negative campaign offering, claims opponent Rick Cole once insulted “over 900 community members that work on the Rose Parade” by wearing a tee shirt on national television that called them out for being racists.
That’s quite a reach, as Cole was actually referencing the leadership of the Tournament of Roses in 1993 with his shirt stunt and not parade volunteers.
But hey, it’s just politics to make believe the racism accusation applied to a larger portion of the community and nobody will remember the actual details…right?
Well, some folks remember why Cole felt he needed to make his point. One of them is Lena Kennedy, sister of the late Pasadena City Councilmember John J. Kennedy.
Voters have received a “hit piece” from your campaign full of lies and distortions about Rick Cole’s brave (and successful) efforts to integrate the leadership of the Tournament of Roses thirty years ago. In a hundred years, the Tournament had never had a woman or person of color in a leadership role – and for most of that time forbid them from even joining. Working with a broad cross-section of community leadership, Mayor Rick Cole and Vice Mayor Katie Nack negotiated a landmark agreement that changed that forever.
My brother John Kennedy served on the City Council with you before his untimely passing in 2022. At the time you said this about my brother John: “He was an inspiration to me and one of the reasons why I ran. Since he was born and raised here, it wasn’t about agreeing or disagreeing or being right. It was always about what was best for Pasadena. And you always knew that was where he was coming from so even if you didn’t agree with him, you had a respect for that.”
It is with this memory in mind that I express my disgust with your ugly and deceptive attacks on Rick Cole. You are smearing someone who has dedicated years of honorable service to our city as Mayor and Councilmember, and now as a Planning Commissioner.
My brother John always held Rick in high regard, considering him an inspiration and a friend. They collaborated on various initiatives, including crime prevention training and affordable housing policy. Rick’s commitment to equal opportunity and the vision of “One Pasadena” aligns with the values my brother cherished. Even when they disagreed on issues, they conducted themselves with mutual respect.
In light of this shared history, friendship and community service, I implore you to change the tone of your campaign. While disagreements are a natural part of the political process, I believe that a respectful discourse benefits both candidates and, more importantly, the community we all love. Unfair attacks not only harm the reputation of your opponent but also diminish the quality of the democratic process.
I respectfully request that you show the same level of respect that you once spoke of in reference to my brother John, and apologize to Rick Cole and our community. Let us strive to conduct a campaign that honors the principles of fairness and unity, mirroring the exemplary service demonstrated by both my brother John and Rick throughout their years of dedicated service.
Sister of the late Councilmember John J. Kennedy
That’s going to leave a mark.
The history of negative political campaigning is long and storied. In a University of California essay titled “Why negative campaigning works — and how to fight it,” Robyn Schelenz posits that political mudslinging works “because our brains respond to it.”
“Our brains are hard-wired to seek out and remember negative information,” says Schelenz. “That fact isn’t lost on politicians and political parties.”
“Once a negative idea has been planted, it’s very hard to shake,” reports Schelenz.
We recommend you keep that in mind as political campaign season offers us desperate character assassinations galore.
And perhaps the most positive step you can take for mental health is depositing all political campaign mailers, unread, directly into your city-provided recycling bin.