Negative campaign tactic backfires, causes loss
In the most hotly contested race in Dearborn, 19th District Court Judge Mark Somers this week prevented Candyce Abbatt from taking over his seat, in spite of, or maybe because of, negative and poor tactics on the part of the Abbatt campaign and poorly chosen associations with some Arab Americans.
AAPAC President Osama A. Siblani
Typically, AAPAC would have gone on the offensive for Somers, casting negativity on Abbatt and any who supported her. But the organization refused to do that because it respected her and she had supporters in the community.
So what did Abbatt do? In a major miscalculation, Abbatt aligned herself with some in the Arab and non-Arab communities, all people who had their own agendas. The campaign put out literature showing Abbatt and retired attorney Michael Berry standing together, not just endorsing Abbatt, but directly attacking AAPAC. Community members have the right to support whomever they want. AAPAC and The Arab American News encourage political participation. But why would Berry attack an organization that has, for the past 11 years, promoted the American style of political involvement among Arab Americans? Were the senior Berry a newly arrived immigrant, it would be more easily understood. But Berry used to be a major player in the Michigan Democratic Party. At a time when neither major presidential candidate was allowed to get near an Arab American or an American Muslim without a vitriolic attack from the pro-Israel community, why in the world would a member of our own community with such experience in organized politics pull such a stupid, counter-productive stunt?
It didn’t end there. Abbatt’s supporters decided to aggressively harass AAPAC poll workers, many of whom were young students working the polls for the first time. She had behind her the same machine that in 1985 promised to rid the city of the “Arab problem.” They now wanted to rid the community of its organized political group. The openly aggressive and at times nearly violent behavior of Abbatt’s paid workers at the polls pushed AAPAC leaders to reconsider the staffing of the polls in the crucial afternoon hours and to shift much of their focus to the judicial race. Did that cost Abbatt more than 200 votes? Of course. Even Arab American supporters of Abbatt were angry at their candidate’s attack on AAPAC.
The stunt, in fact, did Abbatt in. She lost by a couple hundred votes.
Berry’s actions are inexplicable. AAPAC went to bat for him some years ago to get the Michael Berry Career Center named after the elderly politician. Perhaps that was a mistake.
Berry would do well to take a look at the Michigan Supreme Court race. Chief Justice Cliff Taylor, who Berry also praised and defended, describing him as a “good man,” ended his campaign with attack ads on Justice-elect Diane Hathaway, attempting to align her with an “Arab terrorist” in Dearborn. That stunt backfired too. Hathaway won in a stunning upset. AAPAC strongly supported Hathaway.
Another signal that Berry is out of his element: He supported Dearborn School Board President Sharon Dulmage, who is well known for her anti-Arab actions. She did not win re-election. In fact, she suffered a crushing defeat. AAPAC’s choices, Mary Lane and Aimee Blackburn, won by wide margins.
Michael Berry has charged that AAPAC doesn’t represent the community, and he apparently thinks he does. Why do you suppose all his candidates lost, and everyone endorsed by AAPAC won? g
Osama Siblani is the president of AAPAC and publisher of The Arab American News.