State should prevent candidates from suing each other
By Ray Hanania
Part of the job of running for office is to tell the voters why you should be elected. And another part of the job of being a candidate is to tell the voters why your opponent shouldn’t be elected.
That means that you give voters your spin on why you would be the better official, and why your opponent would be worse. That involves criticism. And if you can’t take criticism, you don’t belong in an election, wasting the public’s time.
But some people who throw their hats into the election ring, and lose, think the best way to get even is to file lawsuits. They criticize their opponents, too, but when the election doesn’t turn out, they file defamation lawsuits claiming the criticism they received was libelous.
The lawsuits are really about the losing candidate wanting more attention. Defamation lawsuits seem to make great headlines before and after elections.
But in the end, the taxpayers are the ones left footing the bill for the legal battles that not only pollute the public debate with whining from sore losers, but clogs up an already jammed court system.
There’s one rule about politics: If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.
It’s satisfying that the candidates filing the lawsuits are usually the ones who lost. They don’t belong in office wasting more of the taxpayers’ time.
Laws should be passed prohibiting candidates from filing defamation lawsuits involving their opponents, with the exception only involving false accusations of sexual misconduct, drug abuse and criminal behavior.
If someone accuses you of being a pedophile, sure, I think the public understands a lawsuit over that one.
But questioning someone’s public record is fair game when you run for public office. And if you don’t want someone criticizing your public performance, then don’t run. The taxpayers need champions who are tough representing them, not weak and whiny.
Public and government office isn’t about you, Mr. Candidate. It is about us, The Voters.
An example of all this is the defamation lawsuit recently filed by McStephen O.A. “Max” Solomon against Illinois Senator Michael Hastings. Solomon failed miserably in his bid to unseat Hastings in the March 15 Democratic primary in the 19th Senate district.
The Solomon lawsuit asserts Hastings sent a mailer to district voters falsely claiming Solomon missed 95 percent of the district’s board meetings during the past year as a trustee in the Grande Prairie Library District, a publicly held office. The mailing also asserted, according to media reports, “Max Solomon will only make things worse, not better.”
A lawsuit because you were criticized for not doing your job, or doing the best job you could do?
Politics is about criticism. I get criticism all the time, from readers and even from my editors. So what? Criticism is the basis of the public debate, and a comprehensive and complete no-holds-barred public debate is the true basis for understanding.
Hastings received 81 percent of the vote, and Solomon received only 19 percent.
Rejection is tough, but Hastings defeated Solomon fair and square. Hastings has held the seat since 2012 and he is very popular, praised for his own good attendance record and for his attention to the needs of the district’s voters.
But now we have to watch as Solomon’s bitterness slogs through the court system, wasting a lot of taxpayer money and time.
The lawsuit is offensive. I hope the court throws it out and sends a strong message to all candidates that they can’t use the court system as a form of post-election revenge.
The voters spoke loud and clear. Live with it!
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and political columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)