Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Taking advantage

The Star has an interesting piece on the ways parents of murder victims can be used and abused in the political process. Paul Morrison, who switched parties to take on Phill Kline, determined that he couldn't seek the death penalty in the murder of a teenager. People thought the father, who wanted the death penalty for the murderer, might speak out against Mr. Morrison. The Star reports that Kemp won’t be ‘a pawn’ in race.

The story also refers to a campaign ad Phill Kline ran using parents of a victim of sexual assault, and the regrets that the parents have for taking part in the ad.

Those parents are no longer Kline fans:
In 2003, Kline hired Gene Schmidt [the father from the ad] as the state’s coordinator for victims rights. Schmidt left the job 18 months later, saying Kline had lost interest in his work.

“Phill Kline never stopped campaigning,” Gene Schmidt said. “He still hasn’t.”
Neither set of parents wants their child's tragedy to be made into political hay, and I think that's wise and appropriate.

To me, that death penalty decision was a gutsy political move. Morrison's decision in a mediagenic case would be covered even if he didn't just switch to a party known for ambivalence toward the death penalty. But the Kansas law requires various conditions, and he made the choice which was legally justified, not a decision that would have been popular, but then gotten knocked down on appeal.

It takes a particular kind of courage to do the calm, professional thing in the midst of what will be a big, flashy, dirty campaign.