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Truth In Politics: A Matter Of Semantics?

GOP campaign sign1


FR&A Editorial Analysis.

Here’s a question: When is an election not an election?

The question arises because of a campaign sign distributed by township Republicans in support of their mayoral and township council candidates.

“Re-Elect Mayor Chris Kelly,” it reads.

Re-elect? Kelly won an election?

In the opinion of township Republican chairman Bob LaCorte, the answer is “yes.”

“Since Chris was elected by the governing body in a 4-2 vote I felt he was elected,” LaCorte wrote in an email. “As the municipal chair this was  my decision and appropriate.”

Maybe.

Kelly was voted in to the mayor’s seat during the Jan. 13, 2015 Township Council meeting. He was one of three candidates – LaCorte and Raleigh Steinhauer being the other two – put up for the council’s consideration by the Republican Party following the resignation of former Mayor Brian Levine.

Here’s how the agenda (page 42, if you’re following along) for that meeting reads:

SELECTION & APPOINTMENT OF MAYOR
Appointment of Mayor for Unexpired 4-year term ending December 31, 2015

Note the language: “selection” and “appointment.”

Is a selection an election? Is an appointment an election?

Granted, the council did vote on Kelly’s appointment to the position, but can that be called an election? And does this sign, targeted to voters as it is, imply that there was a general election in which the mayor was elected?

Calling the vote a re-election imparts the image of incumbency on Kelly’s run for mayor, and that could have an affect on voters, in the opinion of someone who studies voters and politicians for a living.

David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, said calling Kelly’s run a re-election “could be shading it a bit simply because the person was never elected in the first place.”

“If you’re a relatively naïve voter, it might make you go, oh we must have voted for this guy before, and that would not be true in this situation,” Redlawsk said. “In that sense, I think it shades the truth and attempts to take advantge of the position being held.”

What do you think? Does framing this as a “re-election” of a mayor who was basically selected as a placeholder for the year (no disrespect intended, but that’s essentially what an appointment is. The same can be said for the appointment of Democrat Shanel Robinson to complete the term of former Councilman Brian Regan) seem legitimate?

Tell us your opinion in the comments.

Your Thoughts

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