So, House District 49 citizens, who do you prefer? The draft-dodging girly man pornographer, or the pollution-loving witch who covers up for sexual-harassing relatives?

Well, it's a tough choice. Can we just opt for none of the above?

Of course, that's exactly what they want you to do, these campaign managers and political operatives who will say and produce anything - no matter how vile - to influence how we vote in elections.

Or how we don't vote.

For that's the real purpose behind the ugliness - to keep you from returning that ballot, to drench you in so much sleaze that you'll feel the need to shower is more compelling than your obligation to participate in democracy. Then, with the turnout suppressed, it will be a race to see which side can whip its base into the greatest frenzy. And the character-assassinating mailers and television ads can further that purpose, by demonizing - no, make that criminalizing - the other side.

Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that a House race that started with an imbecilic charge that Democrat Rob Brading favored exposing children to pornography would end with Republican Karen Minnis being tarnished with the alleged sins of her brother-in-law. Along the way, the district has been littered with mailings about Brading's ancient history as a conscientious objector and Minnis' supposed coziness with big 'polluters' such as - oh horrors! - Portland General Electric and Northwest Natural Gas.

The Latest Diversion From Any Issues That Matter came last week when the Brading camp launched a TV ad falsely claiming that Minnis and her husband covered up a decade-old sexual-harassment claim against her brother-in-law, Tuck Minnis. The ad and a subsequent mailer ignore the facts of this painful family episode and try to cast Minnis as just another version of disgraced U.S. House Rep. Mark Foley.

What the Democrats have proved with this grossly unfair attack is that they are willing to give up the moral high ground they once held in exchange for their overwhelming desire for victory. They now equal the GOP - creator of Willie Horton and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth - in their ability to slander the opposition.

Congratulations. We're sure your voters are pleased - at least the ones who aren't in the shower.

Why any decent person would run for office in this environment is beyond comprehension. Everybody has some aspect of their lives - or their extended families' lives - that could be unearthed, distorted, videotaped, published or otherwise shouted to the world: Karen Minnis is just like Mark Foley! Rob Brading voted for pornography!

A Fairview resident reported to us recently that he saved the pile of nasty mailings he has been receiving on a daily basis from the two House candidates and their supporters. He then used them instead of kindling to start a fire. It was almost cleansing, he said, to watch as the lies went up in smoke.

But the stench, we would imagine, must have lingered for weeks.

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