, Newburyport, MA

September 30, 2013

In Amesbury, warring camps need to calm down

Newburyport Daily News

---- — The polls won’t be open for another five-plus weeks, but already the intensity of the election in Amesbury is taking on a vicious, partisan and personal tone that needs to be nipped in the bud.

There are two clear political camps coalescing, each one centered around a candidate for mayor — incumbent Thatcher Kezer and challenger Ken Gray. The camps each have candidates running for City Council seats, and a fairly long coattail of supporters and foot soldiers who are engaging in a sharp fight on social media websites and elsewhere. The very nature of social media — never having to look a person in the eye, or pick up on social cues, or engage in normal human interaction — no doubt exacerbates the aggression.

Some of the dialogue is civil and thoughtful. A lot of it is not. Already there are accusations of underhanded activity, low blows, namecalling, banning one another from posting and hidden agendas. There is much suspicion and antagonistic personality conflicts. It will probably only get worse as the election nears.

We hope that both sides will find a way to curb the killer instincts and instead civilly focus the debate on the issues that in the end will really matter to Amesbury. These issues are not unknown — quality of life, local schools, taxes, plans for growth and opportunity, ways to curb crime, etc.

Already we’ve heard numerous candidates and citizens refer to this 2013 election season as a throwback to 2005. The year 2005 will not be forgotten by Amesbury residents who witnessed it. The election for mayor devolved into an ugly, personality-driven race.

The next two years were marked by vicious political battles that polarized the town. Not much positive momentum was gained. They were lost years for Amesbury, mired in a localized version of the bitter partisanship that we have grown to despise in Washington, D.C.

If anything, the headline-grabbing antics going on in Town Hall over those two years made Amesbury a laughingstock in this region. It’s not the kind of legacy that anyone should strive for.

We sadly have come to expect angry and divisive rhetoric in our nation’s capital, and we see the results — voters are turned off, and they tune out. The same should not be allowed to happen in our local communities.

When the election polls close on Nov. 5, Amesbury voters will have spoken. In the run-up to that election, we hope that the two warring sides will remember that Amesbury is not a battleground, but a community that both sides will need to call home in the end.