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Editorial: The low road to Sonoma

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The ink hadn’t even dried on the ballot and already the Nov. 6 election was heading for the ditch.

That’s how it started in July when, following the Sonoma City Council’s 3-2 refusal to bring a signature-qualified cannabis-dispensary initiative to the voters this fall, dispensary businessman Jon Early emailed a “private message” to Councilmember David Cook, who had voted to withhold the initiative, warning him that “the gloves are off.”

“There’s a bullseye on your forehead at the moment,” wrote Early.

To say it was a poor choice of words is like saying the Hindenburg was a poor choice of transatlantic travel.

A call to the police and several email exchanges between the City and Early later, who insisted he meant “bullseye” in a “harmless” sporting fashion, and it was clear Council Chambers was not the intended location for a new “Hunger Games” reality show. Phew.

But, before we move on, let’s make an important etymological clarification: The phrase Early was reaching for is “target on your back” which, according to online idiom dictionary idioms4you, identifies a person to “beat, oppose, replace or somehow persecute” – as in, we’ll try and unseat you in the next election. Fine. But Early’s parlance, “a bullseye on your forehead,” sounds like he’s perched on a rooftop adjusting the scope on his M24. It’s not a subtle difference.

But to echo how City Manager Cathy Capriola generously put it, Early didn’t seem “to intend” his message in the way it came out.

The same can’t be said for a more insidious political attack that also surfaced before the ballot had even been finalized.

Last week, a website link started making the rounds on social media targeting incumbent City Council candidate Rachel Hundley. The website, created by a shadow group calling itself, ironically, Sonoma Citizens for Peace & Cooperation, promises “Rachel Hundley Exposed” and features several photos of the councilwoman… (dramatic pause)… wearing beach clothes, attending costume parties and, in perhaps the only thing on the site that puts her judgment in question, hanging out with people who mug silly faces for photos. In a youtube clip blasting the site, Hundley says an email was sent to her threatening future “disclosures” if she didn’t drop out of the race.

If this website is the group’s A-material, Hundley has little to worry about any future disclosures.

The group’s chief complaint about Hundley’s year as mayor in 2017 seems to be that she was in her mid-30s and single (she’s now engaged) and attended the now-kinda-mainstream campout party Burning Man. Whether she was back-masking Led Zeppelin albums in the meanwhile, the site could not confirm. It’s most salacious teases about Hundley result in broken links; thus, like an amorous middle-aged sales exec at Burning Man, it promises far more than it can deliver.

Sonoma should be far less concerned over what perfectly legal things the council members do in their free time than it should who in this community would put up such a sleazy website – and possibly be committing extortion – in the first place. And a poor one at that – an interview with a disgruntled former roommate, really?

The Sonoma Index-Tribune’s opinion page department has conducted preliminary investigations into who’s behind the Sonoma Citizens for Peace & Cooperation, but have not yet identified the publsihers of the site. If anyone has info on SCPC, email to the address below.

Sonoma is better than this. We need to let the elected officials vote how they vote and, if we don’t like it, support alternatives in the next election – but keep the personal and salacious attacks where they belong, buried deep within our id. Several weeks ago, this column supported letting the voters decide on a qualified initiative that was denied a place on the Nov. 6 ballot. The argument holds just as true here – don’t bully your way toward election outcomes. Campaign and vote. It’s a simple and dignified order.

And to those running for office – both new candidates and seasoned veterans – we respect your willingness to put yourselves out there. Be sure to fully appreciate any support you get; and don’t take the criticisms too hard. Democracy’s a tough game. But the alternatives are a lot tougher.

Just ask long-ago presidential candidate Martin Van Buren who, during the campaign of 1836, was on the receiving end of one of history’s more outrageous personal attacks when Congressman Davy Crockett accused him of cross dressing.

“(Van Buren) is laced up in corsets, such as women in town wear and, if possible, tighter than the best of them,” Crockett wrote of his political foe.

Of course, Crockett died later that year at the Alamo, and Van Buren went on to win the White House.

Lace up your corsets, Sonoma. It’s going to be a wild election.

Email Jason at Jason.walsh@sonomanews.com.