You've got to hand it to Andy Spano. When the Democrat was being battered and beaten during the 2009 race for Westchester County executive, he could have made an issue of Rob Astorino's father having done time in prison in the mid-1990s.
But Spano didn’t. You didn't hear a peep about it four years ago. Not in debates or campaign mailers -- and the all-too-common whisper campaigns were mostly silent.
He showed a level of decency.
Even though Spano lost the race in a landslide, he deserves credit for not playing the dad card. Ask any voter if dragging a candidate's mom, dad or third cousin through the mud is fair game and they'll likely tell you it’s just plain dirty. And in Spano’s race, it wouldn't have changed a thing.
But that was then. Since sleaze sometimes sticks, it tends to show up in campaigns. A paternal spat started two weeks ago in Westchester when Kurt Colucci announced his bid for the Conservative line in a run for county executive. The usually calm and collected Astorino team responded sternly: It immediately called out Colucci's father for his offensive Facebook posts showing Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in a Nazi uniform with homophobic subtext.
And the Astorino camp stands by the move.
Colucci responded, saying he never had a relationship with his father and that he first met him six years ago. That would have been good enough. But the fiery Colucci later went on to call the county executive's dad the “federally convicted former corrupt cop” whose crimes were far worse than his own father's sins, which admittedly were in poor taste, but were protected by the First Amendment, he said.
He told Newsday.com reporter John Dyer: “I wanted to make a statement early that if you are going to hit hard, I'll hit hard, too.”
These swings all around may have been hard -- and you can argue whose are worse -- but they’re also cheap ... and miss the mark.
Regardless of the brawler strategy, it's time to move past the daddy digs and get down to business. Let's hear more about the platforms and visions for this county.
Colucci must prove he’s no stooge and set himself apart from Sam Zherka, the controversial newspaper publisher, and Giulio Cavallo, the Independence Party chairman, who many believe are behind his run. And he needs to add some substance to his generic rhetoric about liberty, oppressive government and taxes. It's not enough for him to say that he's going to cut taxes and work with people -- let's see some details.
And Astorino, who ceded the higher moral ground by attacking first, has to explain his accomplishments and his rocky relationship with the county board, and articulate his vision for the next four years.
It can't simply be cut, baby, cut.
Round one is done. Going forward, they ought to stop the low blows.
Gerald McKinstry is a member of the Newsday editorial board.