A Different Position For Every Audience

I was listening to Kenai Peninsula talk radio the other morning. During Duane Bannock’s “Tall, Dark, and Handsome Hour” of KSRM’s Sound-Off, Senator Cathy Giesell was invited on as a guest. As you’re probably aware, Senator Cathy Giesell sailed through a dismal challenge by KPBSD Board President Joe Arness in the Republican primary. No Democratic candidate stepped up; however, a non-partisan candidate, Ron Devon, has challenged Senator Giesell and has put together quite a campaign (more on that later). As primary elections generally go in Alaska, and other red states I’m sure, the Republican’s try to out-right each other. During the primary campaign, Giesell had plenty of cash and name recognition. Joe Arness had neither, and he didn’t really appear to be out generating the funds and creating a buzz that a serious challenger should. Arness had a campaign of about $3,500 by the end of the August primary election; Giesell had total income of more than $50,000 by the end of July. It was clear that Giesell was going to win the primary election handedly, which freed her up to focus on her general election campaign almost from the get-go.

Sen. Giesell attended a tea-party forum in Anchorage on June 25. At least part of the forum was devoted to lightning-round type questions, in which the candidates would raise either a green (yes) or a red (no) paddle following a question. One of the questions was:

Do you support complete privatization of Alaska’s school system?

The moderator repeated that the question had the word “complete” in front of privatization. Sen. Giesell, along with Senate Education Chair Sen. Kevin Meyer, both raised the green paddle. It was very clear what the question was and nobody seemed confused by it. At least one red paddle went up. Watch the video:

Fast forward to today. That independent (read: non-partisan) candidate I mentioned earlier, Ron Devon, is creating quite a buzz for himself and voters appear warm to the idea of a state senator that’s neither a Democrat nor a Republican. Not only that, but he’s been busy visiting and calling voters in the newly drawn Senate District N. In a race that early-on seemed like a shoe-in (a weak primary challenger and a non-party-backed candidate with virtually no name-recognition on the Peninsula), things are starting to get energized.

In the middle of August, Sen. Giesell couldn’t remember Devon’s name when I heard someone ask her, “Hey, who’s that independent guy that’s running against you?” Today, she certainly knows his name and her cakewalk from a couple of months ago has her now in a gallop. I think she suspected Mr. Devon would be an also-ran, a token “give people a choice”-type candidate. But Mr. Devon has turned this into a real race and, as a result,  some of the things that Sen. Giesell have said are being scrutinized and very well may come back to haunt her.

So back to the radio program. Prompted by a text message from a listener, Duane Bannock asked Sen. Giesell “You indicated support for the… and I’m quoting… complete privatization of Alaska’s school system. Is that accurate? What can you tell me about that?” Senator Giesell responded:

“That question came from an audience member, and the moderator read it and said, ‘I don’t know what that means’, he said ‘what about privatization?’  Now, Senator Meyer and I looked at each other, Senator Meyer is co-chair of the Senate Education Committee. We looked at each other and concluded that they must be referring to parental choice, which both of us advocates. That is what we just talked about earlier. Parents being able to choose which school is the best for their students. And so we put up a yes paddle.”


Following this, Bannock asked her if she supported the complete privatization of Alaska’s education system, and Giesell replied in the negative.

Now, you’ve seen the video of what really happened and you’ve heard what Senator Giesell is now claiming happened. What do you think? Did the Senator forget? Did she misspeak? Or is she desperately trying to rewrite history and moderate her views now that she realizes that this Ron Devon chap is a real candidate after all?

I do not think you should be able to get away with being one person during the primary and someone completely different during the general. Of course you’re going to try and tailor your message to your audience, but completely misrepresenting the positions that you previously boasted is something else. There’s a word for it.

It’s called lying.

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