Last week, Republican Congressional candidate Vernon Parker seemed pretty reluctant to cross verbal swords with his Democratic opponent Kyrsten Sinema. One of the two will represent the voters and citizens of Arizona's newest District in the 113th Congress beginning in January 2013.
Yesterday, Parker's campaign issued a press release in response to Sinema's invitation six days prior to debate on education priorities.
PHOENIX -- Congressional Republican Candidate Vernon Parker will go head-to-head with his Democratic opponent in a televised debate next month hosted by Channel 8 Horizon. The forum will provide an opportunity for Parker to outline his plans and goals for CD9 and to juxtapose his position with Democrat Kyrsten Sinema’s radical leftist agenda.
Just last week, Sinema challenged Vernon Parker to a debate about education. And while Parker believes education should be a pivotal element of the debates, he does not believe it should be the only element. Parker believes voters in CD9 deserve to know where both candidates stand on the issues important to them, including how both candidates plan to get the economy back on track and Arizonans back to work.That press release was followed by a letter from Vernon to Kyrsten:
September 24, 2012
23 E Baseline Rd. D-202
Tempe, AZ 85283
Thank you for your letter on September 18 requesting a debate on television. Today I have informed KTVK and KPNX that I will participate in their proposed debates.
I sincerely look forward to debating you on all of the issues including education.
As you know, during your time in the Arizona Legislature our kids have continued to fail at the basics. According to NAEP only 32% of Arizona 4th graders are proficient or advanced in reading skills, and only 35% are proficient or advanced in math skills. That means our education system is failing nearly 70% of our kids. It’s appalling.
However during your time in the Legislature you focused your energy on passing “medically accurate” sex education, in fact you introduced this legislation nearly every year. While I agree sex education is important, even more important is to teach our kids to read, write, and do math. I believe the people of Arizona would agree with me.
Sadly for Arizona kids, this is just another example of you putting your radical agenda above their needs.
I support educational choice, bringing innovation to the classroom, holding teachers accountable, ensuring funding is protected for public schools, protecting and increasing Pell Grants and making sure money destined for the classroom isn’t wasted by Washington bureaucrats. In Congress, I will work to reform NCLB as it clearly is broken, and push for constant testing which will allow for immediate remediation so that our kids can get the educational intervention they need and don’t fall drastically behind. I will enumerate even more priorities I have for education reform in the weeks to come.
I look forward to these debates and will see you on the trail.
Sincerely,Now, what do the press release and letter REALLY tell us about Vernon Parker and his campaign?
First, Vernon Parker is short on answers and long on wedge issues. Under the guise of civility and politeness, the first thing he does is throw an inflammatory bomb attempting to define Sinema as a "radical leftist." Of course, how credible can such claims be when Sinema has shown tremendous ability to overcome obstacles as a lawmaker. From her campaign website:
Sinema brings passion and knowledge to the causes she fights for – and a unique ability to win. In 2011, Kyrsten was lauded by the Arizona Republic for her “remarkable” ability to “partner with Republicans in both the House and Senate” to pass legislation while remaining “a staunch defender of key Democratic priorities.”When you examine her record in the Arizona Legislature, it will be difficult to believe the outrageous and poorly constructed claims that Parker makes about Sinema. Consider also Sinema's book, Unite and Conquer, which has been out since 2009. A reader review posted on Amazon in 2009:
If someone is starting out in politics and wants to learn, from Kyrsten's experience, both how to fail at gaining legislative victories -- and MORE IMPORTANTLY how to succeed -- then this is a must-read primer. Funny at times, this is a well-written manifesto by an up-and-coming politician who's learning how to succeed in building coalitions. In fact, any reader will benefit from taking on board her ideas.It is refreshing when a politician is willing to address her failures and learn from them, as well as showing how she learned to succeed.
The television ads Parker and/or Republican PACs and SuperPACs are running on his behalf are even more "out there" than what is in the press release. Ironically, "out there" is how they are trying to portray Sinema. But it's going to backfire on them.
Beyond that, I'm not going to have to defend Sinema or any of her positions on issues. She will do that very well for herself. Forcefully, effectively, without raising her voice. But clearly, Parker will continue to inadvertently define himself in ways that may have appealed in 2010 to the Tea Party. But this is NOT 2010 and the Tea Party is already an anachronism.
The verbiage in the press release is intriguing enough and tells us plenty about Parker. The letter however, is interesting in that something written by professional communicators appears amateurish and unprofessional.
The first acronyms -- KTVK and KPNX -- are easily decoded by anyone in the Phoenix area who reads the letter. Those are the call letters for two television stations, Channels 3 and 12 respectively. If Parker's campaign did not intend the letter to be read by anyone except the addressee (Sinema), leaving that explanation out would be no problem. Since Parker's campaign released the document to others (it was posted on Facebook by someone known as AZGOP), that assumption begins to falter.
The next two acronyms are a bit more problematic. What exactly is NAEP? Now, I'm not that clueless. I can do a Google search and make an educated guess. But there are multiple possibilities. Again, Parker's press release and letter to Sinema, either were written or at least proofread and approved by the campaign Communication Director.
By the way, in order for me to fully decode Parker's letter, I would also have to guess, or search or ask someone what NCLB he was talking about. My hunch is that it is the No Child Left Behind Act. But, with Parker having a full time, highly trained communication director on staff, why should I have to guess? Doesn't that enhance the probability of misunderstanding?
Parker's communication director is Alyssa Pivirotto. The Ms. Pivirotto who so eloquently guided Wil Cardon to victory over Jeff Flake in the Republican primary for US Senate. Ooops, sorry, Cardon did NOT beat Flake -- despite spending several million of his own dollars on the campaign.
How well did Cardon's negative ads work for him? By the way, on June 8 Channel 10 ran the following news story about Cardon's negative ad strategy. It's quite enlightening. Pivirotto's Linked-in profile says she started as communication director with Cardon in May. So, her fingerprints are all over the ad Channel 10 reports about.
Of course, Vernon Parker is not Wil Cardon. But he did hire Cardon's communication director. And it's pretty clear that Pivirotto's negative campaign style is on display already. As is her lack of attention to detail.
Democratic campaign veteran Barry Dill is in the Channel 10 clip and provides key insight. He says negative ads work BUT only when they are true. Exactly HOW FAR over the line have Parker and those financing ads on his behalf already gone?
What have we learned about Vernon Parker so far?
We know from his written communications that he wants to APPEAR to campaign civilly, but very much will address the shiny objects known as wedge issues rather than compete with Sinema on the essence of his ideas.
To look macho, Parker says he wants to cover all of the issues, not just education, when they appear on Arizona Horizon (tentatively scheduled for October 18). But that's just another shiny object.
Arizona Horizon is a half hour program that generally doesn't go more than 25 minutes. Having appeared on the KAET Channel 8 current affairs broadcast myself in January, I can tell you that time goes by in what seems like the blink of an eye. At best, we will see each candidate make a few very superficial points on more than one issue or maybe get to discuss in a little bit of depth one issue, maybe two.
There will be so much more to write about on the CD9 race in the days and weeks to come.
Stay tuned to the Arizona Eagletarian to get beneath the surface and explore what is really taking place.