U.S. Rep. Nancy Boyda says she tried to prove that she could win re-election to her 2nd District House seat without running attack ads against her opponent.
But instead, the defeated Democratic congresswoman says her race against Republican Lynn Jenkins showed the country that the easiest way to win an election is by saying lots of bad things about your opponent, even if they’re not true.
Jenkins, the Kansas state treasurer, beat Boyda 51 percent to 46 percent, which Boyda said demonstrated “beyond a shadow of a doubt” the capacity of negative campaigning to get votes.
“We will be the nationwide case history for why there has to be mudslinging, and the more the better,” Boyda told The Topeka Capital-Journal in her first extended interview since Election Day. “It has cemented that formula.”
But a Jenkins spokesman attributed the Republican’s victory to hard work on the campaign trail and a message of fiscal conservatism.
“We had a consistent message highlighting the strengths of what we believe was the better candidate, and clearly the voters agreed,” said Pat Leopold, Jenkins’ campaign manager.
But Boyda, who leaned on a series of folksy campaign ads and newspaper tabloids detailing her views on policy issues, said Jenkins was way behind in the polls before “they went negative, negative, negative.”
Boyda said she was targeted by radio and television ads and by automated telephone calls claiming, among other things, that she had pledged to raise five federal taxes, had voted for the largest tax increase in U.S. history, and that she was going to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits.
She said one ad even implied that she was anti-American, telling people to “Call Nancy Boyda and ask if she’s on the side of terrorists.”
None of those claims was true, Boyda said.
“The thing that makes me the saddest in this whole thing is that people knew that Lynn Jenkins wasn’t telling the truth,” Boyda said. “What this race has proven is that if you want to win, you need to tell a bunch of lies about your opponent over and over and over again and get as many third-party outside groups, from outside Kansas, to do the same thing.”
As for her campaign, Boyda turned down appeals by her own party to respond aggressively to Jenkins’ ads. She decided it would be inappropriate to attack Jenkins on missing meetings of the state retirement system board while the fund lost $1 billion, and she also declined to run ads questioning Jenkins about her role as treasurer in misallocation of fuel tax revenue to all 105 countries.
She said her campaign even knew of problems with Jenkins’ marriage, but didn’t bring it up. Jenkins’ husband filed for divorce three days after the election.
“I was really hoping we could show the country that we, in fact, could run a different kind of campaign,” Boyda said.