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Blood Sport in the Richmond Mayor's Race

Personal disclosures about Mayor Gayle McLaughlin push aside consideration of the city's major progress in recent years.

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The former councilman distanced himself from the personal attack on McLaughlin. "The debate should be over the issues," Ziesenhenne said. "It's hard not to be critical of your opponent's agenda, but I've never run any of my races like that."

McLaughlin supporters heavily criticized Bates for circulating her bankruptcy documents via e-mail. Bates said he was sorry the mayor had been in such an unstable situation, but that was not his responsibility. "I didn't create it," Bates said. "I received an anonymous e-mail and I sent it out to a few people and all of a sudden, I'm the culprit?"

Whether the campaign tactic will be effective remains to be seen. It worked well for Reese in the 1990s, but in many ways Richmond is a different city now. At the Richmond Marina and around the Richmond BART station, there are whole new neighborhoods of condominiums occupied by young, educated professionals who are less likely to be swayed by blood-sport-style politics. Very few refinery employees even live in Richmond any more.

McLaughlin said the campaign attack has given her campaign momentum. She has received hundreds of e-mails and a boost in campaign contributions. "These kind of attacks have gone on too long in Richmond," she said. "All it does is discourage good people from being active in public life and increases the cynicism people feel toward government."

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