You're the incumbent mayor, running for re-election.
Polls show you down some 20 points. Your articulate, aggressive opponent accuses you of corruption, citing a four-year-long probe of allegations about political fund raising and the awarding of city contracts. Your opponent constantly reminds the voters that your deputy mayor -- formerly your chief campaign fund-raiser -- resigned over allegations that he steered city contracts to your political donors.
You fire back, noting that nine years ago your opponent wrote a letter to President Clinton in which, you say, your opponent wanted leniency for a man who turned out to be a convicted drug dealer. In short, this is one nasty race.
How nasty? Your city's major newspaper editorializes: "(I)nstead of hearing what's best for the city, voters get an earful about who would be worse. Just think what that will do to turnout, a dismal 26 percent in the primary."
"Make no mistake," says your opponent, "this is the most investigated administration in Los Angeles history since the 1930s." You blast your challenger for putting his kids in private schools, while not doing enough, as a politician, to fight for state aid to public schools. "Because you failed that test of leadership," you say, "you took your kids out of the public school system."
But wait. An aide informs you that -- as a young man -- your opponent took the State Bar Examination to obtain a law license four times. What's more, your opponent, currently a city councilman, to date has never passed the exam. And the failure of inner-city public schools has become a major campaign issue. Question: Do you use against your opponent his failure -- after four tries -- to pass the California bar?
Is the issue relevant? Does your opponent's failure to pass the bar render him unqualified to run for mayor of a major city? Of course not. But you could, for example, question your opponent's commitment to higher school standards. Given the city's 50 percent inner-city dropout rate, your opponent's position on, for example, requiring high-school students to take exit exams might be worth hearing about.
Also, your opponent attended UCLA and credits his success, in part, to UCLA's "affirmative action program." What's wrong with expecting that someone who attends UCLA, presumably at least in part at taxpayers' expense, and goes on to law school will, in fact, at some point pass his bar exam?