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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.)
This post has already been read 114 times!
Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.
Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.
Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com