By Preston Knight -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- A month before Shenandoah County voters will make a decision on their next commonwealth's attorney, the verbal sparring that marked the campaign early on has resumed.
Woodstock Mayor Jeremy McCleary, who is the GOP nominee to succeed the retiring Albert T. Mitchell, and independent candidate Amanda McDonald Wiseley are at odds on whether a recent phone poll paid for by Wiseley strayed off script to deceive voters into thinking her opponent was a Democrat and she a Republican.
In a Sept. 28 email to a handful of supporters, McCleary said Wiseley resorted to the "lowest form of political tactics" by targeting Republican voters and trying to confuse them.
He said one voter approached him about being lied to regarding the candidates' party affiliation during the poll, which prompted the email to determine if more people experienced the same thing.
When reached by phone Tuesday, a voter who McCleary said received the polling call in question declined to comment unless she could remain anonymous. Also when reached by phone, a man who Wiseley said set up her poll declined to comment without anonymity.
The poll's script was four simple questions -- if the person planned to vote, his or her thoughts on Wiseley, their opinion of McCleary and then which way he or she would vote, Wiseley said. McCleary said only the one person has acknowledged hearing the comment that went away from the script.
Wiseley answered Monday afternoon by lashing out in a news release distributed by her husband and law partner, Eric. She called McCleary's email "deceitful and shameful."
"[H]is despicable tactics have forced me to defend myself," the release states. "My opponent's allegation that the pollsters made the false statement he attributes to me is a pathetic lie, and I demand an immediate apology from Jeremy McCleary."
Instead, McCleary criticized Wiseley for deliberately distorting the facts.
"Unfortunately, my opponent is trying to grab attention through name-calling in a misleading and untruthful press release," McCleary said in an email Tuesday. "The office of Commonwealth's Attorney is a serious job and I believe the people of Shenandoah County want a prosecutor who will not resort to such impulsive and extreme behavior. ... The purpose of my email was simply to gather information to determine the nature of my opponent's poll. My opponent has now distorted these events and for some reason, despite all the evidence to the contrary, claims that I made this up."
Wiseley is no stranger to strong words. A former secretary of the county GOP, she backed away from seeking the party's nomination this summer after accusing other candidates of a "whispering campaign" against her. Her release Monday placed blame for that on McCleary, which he also denies.
Wiseley took a swipe at her opponent's background in her release, asking whether a year as mayor outweighs her nine years of courtroom experience. McCleary is also an attorney who prosecutes cases for the town of Strasburg.
"This election is a choice between a slick politician and an experienced attorney, politically-anointed versus courtroom-proven," Wiseley's release states.
McCleary, however, says his own experience makes him better qualified as a prosecutor.
"I am the only candidate with experience as a prosecutor and, sadly, my opponent is doing everything she can to take the focus off of that fact," he said.