Playing With Words

October 2005
We're just a couple of days out from the election on Tuesday, and candidates and campaigns are pulling out the proverbial stops as the end of the line nears. The latest controversy in Denver involves two candidates for the Denver School Board at-large position. Jill Conrad is upset at opponent Brad Buchanan for claiming that he has "the support of teachers," despite the fact that it is Conrad who has received the endorsement of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association. From The Denver Post:
The Denver teachers union president scolded school board candidate Brad Buchanan on Thursday night after receiving an automated phone call on her personal answering machine from his campaign claiming that he has the support of "thousands" of Denver teachers. Denver Classroom Teachers Association president Kim Ursetta said in a news release that at-large candidate Buchanan was deceiving voters with that message because the teachers union endorsed Jill Conrad for the at-large seat. "He didn't receive the endorsement of thousands of teachers," she said. "I thought it was very misleading." Buchanan, at a candidate forum Thursday, said he "has tons of support from teachers." The call, which went to some Denver homes, features a woman saying, "Teachers like me support Brad Buchanan. ..." The woman in the phone message is a teacher at Park Hill K-8 school, Buchanan said. "With all due respect to the teachers union, they represent only a fraction of the more than 13,000 DPS employees," said Ben Kelly, Buchanan's campaign manager. "Our campaign is overwhelmed by the support we have received by teachers and principals, ... including members of the teachers union." The teachers union has about 3,000 members out of roughly 4,300 teachers and other staff in the district.
Admittedly, I don't know the full context of this story, but this is one of those hazy campaign strategies that just barely straddles the line. Is it misleading to say that Buchanan has the support of teachers? Not if he has the support of some teachers. But if he is saying that he has the support of thousands of teachers, that's when it gets a little iffy. Politics can be a lot like English class, where the grammar and the syntax make all the difference.