Editorial: Candidate’s wallet should not be an issue

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Brian Sullivan thinks he should be the Republican gubernatorial candidate because he’s rich, and as the state convention approaches, he’s laying on his &uot;I have more resources&uot; rhetoric as thick as he can. It’s just as distasteful as Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mike Ciresi’s identical argument two years ago, but more than anything, it’s a symptom of what’s wrong with politics.

Sullivan may or may not be a better candidate than his rival, Tim Pawlenty. But regardless, he’s hammering away less on the issues than on &uot;electability,&uot; which he interprets as the ability to get a message out to voters. And, the best way to get that message out &045; thanks to the bias of the &uot;liberal media&uot; &045; is to buy advertising, he says.

Sadly, Sullivan may be right about that, but not for the reasons he thinks. Newpapers and other media provide plenty of balanced election coverage, but the problem is that many voters don’t pay enough attention to these kinds of reports to get the message. This is a comment mostly on candidates who fail to spark enough interest in the majority of the population and a system that discourages participation. Candidates are then forced to vie for attention by using oversimplified and often misleading campaign commercials.

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Those kinds of commercials are what Sullivan says he can afford more than Pawlenty. He says he will waive his right to public funding and therefore be released from spending limits, freeing him up to use his personal fortune and money he’s raised to win the war of words against Roger Moe and, possibly, Gov. Jesse Ventura.

The prospect that the election for governor will be decided in the advertising arena is troubling. While Sullivan can be credited for his honesty in addressing the &uot;resources&uot; issue, his overtures are likely to be met with skepticism from Minnesotans who like to think you should’t be able to buy public office.