Both candidates in the state Supreme Court race have gone on the offensive with their advertising campaigns, but it's the voters who should be offended.
An ad for Republican Supreme Court nominee Joan Orie Melvin, in yellow lettering on a red background, inserted a hammer and sickle into the surname of President Barack Obama. A spokesman for the Republican Party of Pennsylvania says the ad was intended to draw attention to "this important race" and, for the record, no, the party does not believe Mr. Obama is a communist.
Another ad by the Republican Party led five former members of the state Judicial Conduct Board to send Judge Melvin a letter asking her to pull it. That television spot says her Democratic opponent, Superior Court Judge Jack Panella, when he was the board's chairman, failed to do anything about a Luzerne County scheme in which two judges have been charged with violating children's rights so the pair could be paid for filling up a private juvenile prison. Claims in the ad are without justification because, according to the federal prosecutor, the board acted quickly and properly once it was notified about the situation.
In the first instance, Judge Melvin said she objected to the Obama ad as soon as she learned of it, but it did run on the political Web site grassrootspa.com for a week. Her campaign's response to the second flap was similarly distancing, saying the party, not her campaign, was responsible for its content.
On the other side of the ballot, ads for Judge Panella rely on the old tactic of using unflattering black-and-white, grainy photographs of his opponent in television ads that are longer on suggestions of impropriety than on facts. Note that the Post-Gazette editorial featured prominently is from 1997, during Judge Melvin's first campaign for the Superior Court.
Judge Panella has not denounced the sleazy ads that his campaign still is running on Pennsylvania television stations.
And so it goes. Back and forth, claim and counterclaim, underhanded allegation and overblown attack.
By our count, Judge Melvin is ahead so far in the slimy campaign tricks category, but both candidates are losers based on their below-the-belt appeals for votes.
Their behavior is all the more disappointing because it comes from two candidates who are qualified, highly rated jurists who already sit on Superior Court and who both speak intelligently about the duties and challenges of the state Supreme Court. They're both smart enough to know better.
In the five days that remain before voters go to the polls on Nov. 3, we'd like to see them both renounce this style of campaigning in favor of advertisements that provide illumination, not condemnation.