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Hancock voters' victory

January 28, 1999

Congratulations to those officials elected on Monday in Hancock - and to the voters who refused to be swayed by a last-minute gloom-and-doom flier. May it hasten the day when candidates no longer believe this sort of attack can affect an election's outcome.

The flier was distributed to many Hancock homes just three days before the election, and claimed that the town had taken on so much debt that each taxpayer was obligated to the tune of $70,000. That would amount to about $51 million, about what Washington County owes for its water-and-sewer debt.

Not true, said Lou Close, the town's manager. Close said the town's total debt is only $1.9 million, all but $100,000 of which is owed for a water project, which water customers will pay for through regular billings.

The flier was signed by former mayor Ernest Fink and Gerald Shaw, a former councilmember, neither of whom would comment on its accuracy. Asked what evidence he had that its claims were true, Shaw said, "Who said I had evidence?"

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Well, if you want to have any credibility in town matters, you'd better have some evidence before you sign your name to a partisan piece of literature. We can only speculate as to why Shaw and Fink would do such a thing without having any proof they were willing to share, but we do know that it wasn't right.

The incident does highlight the fact that citizens have a responsibility to do their own research before they vote. That means attending any candidate forums that are held, reading newspaper accounts of the campaign and questioning the candidates in person, if necessary.

Voters should always be suspicious of charges that arise so late in a campaign that those being attacked don't have time to adequately defend themselves. They are the political equivalent of a "sucker punch," delivered without warning and without concern for what's fair, or for what will take the campaign debate to a higher level. Let's reject this tactic before someone gets hurt.

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